Max Verstappen continued his winning streak at his home race at Zandvoort last weekend, his momentum seemingly unaffected by the Formula 1 summer break.
Verstappen has had full control on his home race ever since the event returned to the F1 calendar back in 2021, taking pole positions and wins in the last two seasons, with his third win supposedly a formality given the dominance he has enjoyed with his trusty RB19.
But the weather had other ideas, and the weekend at Zandvoort ended up being quite an exciting one, and while Verstappen would still be the favorite for the win, the rain added an extra level of uncertainty, which made for an interesting competition even further down the grid.
And the way the rain started on Lap 1 and stopped soon after that, only to return towards the end of the race made the situation on Sunday ever trickier for all the teams, but all to the benefit of the sport and its fans who were treated to an intriguing spectacle, far from what we have come to expect this year – Verstappen winning, only the winning margin being the question.
There were several points to talk about after the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix, so here are our first Takeaways after the summer break.
Verstappen had to work harder for this one
Let’s be honest here, one would have been crazy to bet against Verstappen taking his ninth consecutive win in 2023 and equaling Sebastian Vettel’s record from 2013, but it wasn’t a walk in the park for the Dutchman, who had to remain laser focused on the job at hand, as the wet weather made the banked corners of Zandvoort even more treacherous.
And indeed, even with the huge expectations weighing on his shoulders, Verstappen rose to the occasion once again, and rewarded his Orange Army with another show of driving perfection, taking pole by quite a margin and winning despite all the hurdles he faced on race day.
His speed advantage over teammate Sergio Perez was alarming – for Perez and Red Bull that is. He was 1.3s faster than the Mexican in qualifying, and was catching him at a formidable pace after the #11 RB19 led the race as a result of an earlier pit stop for Intermediates on Lap 1.
It was somehow funny when Perez complained after Verstappen undercut him when switching to Softs. What did he expect?
The conditions of the Dutch Grand Prix are ones that allow a driver like Fernando Alonso to shine and show the worth of his experience.
Aston Martin had a major upgrade for their AMR23 at Zandvoort, and it seemed to have improved, but not to become the second fastest car on the grid. McLaren still held that honour with Mercedes closely behind them.
But Alonso dragged the #14 Green Car up the order and capitalized on the changeable conditions to take second place, his seventh of the season after a bit of a rough patch for his team, on a day when teammate Lance Stroll was simply anonymous.
The Spaniard’s double pass on George Russell and Alex Albon, on Lap 1, on the inside of Turn 3, was simply lovely (Sorry Max) and the explanation he gave of how he pulled it off after the race just shows how good a racer he is.
“It was wet (in practice) and in one of the out-laps I let a few cars go on the normal racing line and I found a lot of grip on the inside casually, by just letting people go,” he explained.
“So, I kept in my head, all the time, all the weekend, in case it was wet. I was ready to try again…I thought about the inside line, it could work and we overtook those two cars,” Alonso added.
It was just brilliant…
Daniel Ricciardo’s second chance already lost?
Daniel Ricciardo took over from Nyck de Vries since the Hungarian Grand Prix, and to be honest, he had not set the F1 world alight with his performance.
While many expected him to blow Yuki Tsunoda away, he didn’t, he beat him on some occasions and failed to do so on others.
Coming refreshed and focused after a summer break he revealed was spent training hard to catch up with his rivals in terms of racing fitness, the Honey Badger was expected to find an extra gear from Zandvoort onwards, but it was completely the opposite situation.
His crash in practice was that of a rookie and the fact that he kept his hands on the steering wheel was embarrassingly amateurish, and for that he has paid the price, now sidelined until he recovers from the surgery he underwent, and replaced by Liam Lawson until further notice.
Now we wish Daniel a speedy recovery, and that he comes back soon to his F1 seat, but to be honest, his error does not bode well for him and will put his future at risk even more.
Let’s be honest here, the only reason Ricciardo was given the AlphaTauri drive was the problem Red Bull are facing with their junior driver program, they have no serious talent to promote into F1, they have Perez struggling alongside Verstappen, and the fact they brought De Vries to AlphaTauri instead of Lawson just shows they don’t believe the Kiwi is ready for F1.
All in all, quite a grim situation for Ricciardo…
Ferrari… What to say? They were off the pace and both Carlos Sainz and Charles were struggling with the SF-23, their off-track excursions during practice ample proof of that. Leclerc was put on the back foot as Ferrari botched his first stop, but he was also underwhelming and overdriving. He crashed in qualifying and then had contact with Piastri at the start of the race picking up damage that ultimately made Ferrari retire his car. Watching him fight with Lawson was just painful, while Sainz managed to salvage some points for the team.
A disappointing race for McLaren, their pit wall decisions putting both their drivers at a disadvantage, especially Lando Norris who had the chance to achieve a great result following his start from second place. However, he and Oscar Piastri did well to salvage some points.
Alex Albon continues to impress in the Williams, his performance at Zandvoort, a track that shouldn’t have suited his FW45 should be a message for top teams to keep him in mind when shopping around for drivers.
Logan Sargeant showed again he is out of his depth. Granted his crash in the race was caused by a hydraulic problem, but what caused his shunt in qualifying?
Lawson should be given credit for keeping his AlphaTauri out of the barriers, a thing the likes of Perez failed to do, banging the walls on the pit entry, then going faster in the pitlane, and getting slapped with a penalty costing him a podium finish.
Another strong result for Alpine, Pierre Gasly third, at a time of uncertainty for the French team, which should serve as a boost of morale for its staff.
Mercedes also took the wrong decisions when the rain began at the start of the race, but Lewis Hamilton did well to recover from his shock Q2 exit in qualifying, while Russell – despite his strong qualifying performance – was underwhelming in the race and ended up retiring after a puncture due to contact with Norris towards the end of the race.