Verstappen, in Zandvoort the extraterrestrial has landed
F1 Dutch GP 2021 – race analysis
The king is Max
The public enjoys the victory of its darling. Dutch GP crowns Verstappen ahead of the king of his country.
- Formula 1 (@F1) September 5, 2021
Everything went as it should have gone, here at his house. In front of more than two hundred thousand people dressed exclusively in orange who in four days flooded the track and this town overlooking the North Sea with passion and explosive enthusiasm. Max Verstappen tried to stay only focused on numbers and corners, not to get involved in all this. And he did it very well, almost like an extraterrestrial, until he crossed the finish line. But then he had to give in to the emotions and satisfaction of having done everything perfectly and beating Lewis Hamilton after 72 laps without smudges giving his people the greatest joy. A tide gassed and grown only thanks to him, a bit like Valentino Rossi and Ferrari have been able to do over time.
Lewis Hamilton tried angrily, until the end, perhaps the only one who really believed that beating Verstappen was possible. But then mercedes under pressure sinned with the strategy by calling him to the pits too early for the second stop and putting him back on track in traffic. From there there was nothing more to do. So the seven-time world champion returns to the role of pursuer also in the standings, less than three points from Verstappen. Behind the two riders, Ferrari in the end failed to impose itself on Gasly who finished fourth and is very close to renewal. Leclerc fifth and Sainz seventh did theirs: Ferrari is now this and the mountain to climb to get back to the top is still steep.
Race results. F1 Dutch GP 2021.
SIX THINGS WE’VE ALREADY LEARNED ABOUT F1 AT ZANDVOORT
Ross Brawn on Zandvoort’s F1 return, the continued rise of Gasly, and why Alonso was his driver of the day, qui.
Cars can break down or spin off at any track so this element isn’t anything new. But Zandvoort is a particularly punishing circuit. The margin for error is minimal so that immediately heightens the risk of an incident occuring.
And while there are some helpful parts of the track to park, even Hamilton stopping his Mercedes right by a gap in the fence wasn’t enough to avoid a red flag being thrown.
No chances are being taken around this track and that means the errors that could come in qualifying will almost certainly lead to serious session disruption.
MINIMAL RUNNING AND HAMILTON ON THE BACK FOOT
There is always an added urgency to learn the track and gather data when F1 visits a new venue and the circuit was very busy during the spells of green-flag running that were possible.
But the lengthy red-flag delay in FP1 sparked by Vettel’s stoppage seriously hurt teams and kept mileage at a minimum.
So Hamilton’s early problem in FP2, when he had to stop and miss almost the entire session, means he has a lot of catching up to do in final practice and will inevitably be underprepared going into qualifying at a track where overtaking will be really difficult.
“The main issue for me is just catching up, but Valtteri does a fantastic job and we’re not too far off on set-up most of the time so hopefully the great work he’s done today helps.”
ENOUGH OF A CLUE ABOUT VERSTAPPEN
What we have seen from the interrupted practice running on the first day is that Max Verstappen looks almost as much a favourite in terms of pace as he is with the home crowd.
We didn’t have a direct comparison with Hamilton to make because of the latter’s stoppage this afternoon, but Verstappen was carrying a good half-second advantage over Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes in the long runs.
Admittedly, some of that is probably due to a low engine setting from Mercedes, as it was losing 0.3s in the first sector, which is the most power-dominated one.
Forget the headline times as Verstappen’s best laps were spoilt by traffic and a red flag respectively.
“We didn’t get that first lap so we’re not quite sure what our ultimate pace is, but we’ve got a few issues to deal with, the car was a lot happier on the long run, Max was putting in some good times. Sergio’s pace improved quite significantly as well, so I think we’ve just got a bit of tidying up to do for the single lap, but of course, you’ve got to get a clean lap.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner
TRAFFIC SHENANIGANS INEVITABLE
At 4.259km, Zandvoort is the shortest track of the calendar so far after Monaco. It pips the Red Bull Ring and the Hungaroring for the honour of being the shortest permanent venue.
That inevitably means crowding when all cars are on track and we’ve already had plenty of warnings that Q1 will be particularly difficult.
Like with all circuits that present such an extreme, the issue of finding space will lead to plenty of backing up at the end of out-laps but there will also be a constant threat of encountering slow cars while on a flying lap.
“I just can’t get a lap, man”
lamented Verstappen at one point during FP2
THE BANKING IS SPECTACULAR
While the final corner banking is relatively sedate, given it’s an easy flat-out blast, Turn 3 is a very different story. Peaking at 19 degrees of inclination, F1 cars haven’t had to deal with anything like it for decades.
It’s spectacular for so many reasons. Watching from trackside at the start of FP2, it was astonishing how much speed drivers could successfully carry in. The first time Verstappen, the most aggressive of all the drivers in terms of entry, came in it seemed certain he’d hit the wall – only for the car to bite, rotate and send him on his way through the uphill exit.
There’s no corner anywhere on the F1 calendar that creates so much variety in terms of line and approach, with the geometric line useless thanks to the presence of the banking.
Note to F1 track designers – more, please.
OVERTAKING IS GOING TO BE LIMITED
Unsurprisingly the circuit is a huge triumph in the eyes of the drivers. Hamilton called it “crazy” in an F1 car and “a real racing circuit”, Pierre Gasly felt like he was riding a “toboggan” through Turn 3, and Mick Schumacher called it a “rollercoaster”.
The thrill may only last until the end of qualifying. For the fast and narrow layout that is so enjoyable over one lap does not lend itself to overtaking.
The banking in the final corner was added to the circuit in the hope of making the DRS useable through it, effectively extending the final straight. But drivers felt that even had the DRS been available, passing into Turn 1 would only be possible with a huge performance differential.
This was showcased during FP1 with Bottas and Gasly going wheel to wheel into Turn 1 with Gasly getting ahead on the inside but only just getting the car stopped.
Given Bottas was having to co-operate, which drivers won’t be in the race, only a move up the inside when you are already side-by-side will be possible.
It’s also a difficult circuit to follow on given it’s such a high-speed track, so the race is not going to feature many passes