Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller

Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller

The 2023 Dutch Grand Prix had a familiar name atop the podium, but Max Verstappen's route to victory was anything but simple in a chaotic race bookended by two heavy rain showers.

August 28, 2023

Verstappen now boasts the joint record for consecutive F1 wins, matching Sebastian Vettel's run of nine, after another 2023 grand prix that demonstrated his and the RB19's excellence against almost anything the opposition or weather throws at them.

Verstappen's pole position meant he began from the best possible grid slot, but that soon became problematic as raindrops fell during the formation lap. A tentative opening tour of Zandvoort saw the reigning champion be the first driver to venture onto the increasingly wet track as the 20 cars tiptoed around the coastal circuit. The experienced Fernando Alonso came alive in the inclement conditions; the Spaniard jumped from P5 to P3 in just three corners, demoting George Russell and Alex Albon down the order.

Worsening weather meant any opening lap gains weren't valuable for long. The rain battered the Dutch dunes, and half the field made a Lap 1 pit stop while others persevered, thinking the track wasn't yet wet enough for Pirelli's intermediate tyres. Sergio Perez was the highest-positioned runner to make the switch. The decision proved best as the Mexican scythed through the slick-tyre cars, eventually inheriting the race lead once Verstappen pitted. Alonso had continued his march forward before his early stop, crucially passing Norris for P2 and re-finding Aston Martin's form in the opening rounds of 2023.

Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller

A glut of midfield overtakes and alternate strategies meant the order continually changed as the rain eased and the track slowly dried up. Albon and a handful of others chose not to pit, cautiously easing around the banked corners on dry tyres but far behind those out front. Yet even the intermediate rubber couldn't guarantee performance, with Perez losing time to Verstappen, who had to pass Guanyu Zhou and Pierre Gasly thanks to their earlier undercut pit stop. As the track dried further, Red Bull pitted Verstappen to undercut his Mexican teammate, and the championship leader resumed his usual P1 duties out front.

If the craziness of the opening laps wasn't enough unpredictability for the Dutch fans watching in the grandstands, a Logan Sargeant crash triggered a safety car to bring all the cars together on track, irrespective of their chosen pit stop strategies. The order had Verstappen leading Perez, with a fired-up Alonso in third, ahead of Gasly, who had started P12 but benefitted from his opening-lap pit stop. Carlos Sainz followed in P5, effectively as the only Ferrari hope for the race after Charles Leclerc picked up damage from a collision with Oscar Piastri on Lap 1.

Relative to the race's opening act, the middle portion saw things settle down, with the leaders holding position while out-of-place drivers progressively inched forward. Kevin Magnussen became a rolling roadblock for faster cars to pass, including Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris, who were on recovery drives to salvage points.

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Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller

A plucky strategy from Yuki Tsunoda had him suffer the same place-losing fate as the Magnussen when AlphaTauri tried to keep their Japanese racer out during the next round of pit stops. All teams had forecasts of more rain, and Tsunoda tried to extend his Pirelli rubber until then but rapidly lost positions.

That rain eventually fell, though, and it hit the coastal track far heavier than earlier. Intermediate running only lasted for a lap – or two, for the plucky early pitters — before the deluge forced race control to red flag proceedings as drivers aquaplaned into the barriers at Turn 1. Zhou will feel unfortunate to be the sole retirement from the rain before the stoppage, as several cars also ran wide before the red flags waved, but he was the only one to find the barriers.

A six-lap dash to the end awaited the drivers when the race resumed after a lengthy delay. Alonso, who gained P2 after Perez skidded off track in the earlier slippy conditions, initially pressured Verstappen for the lead. Unsurprisingly for any F1 2023 viewers, Verstappen could fend off the Spaniard's attention and soon extended his lead to 3.7 seconds by the time he took the chequered flag, much to the home crowd's delight.

Alonso returned to the podium for the first time since Canada, but the third-placed man was perhaps the happiest of the rostrum visitors. Perez had picked up a five-second penalty for pit lane speeding, and Gasly kept close enough to the Red Bull to inherit P3 and grab the fourth piece of silverware in his career. Next up is the site of Gasly's sole F1 victory, with Monza hosting the Italian Grand Prix this weekend, where Verstappen will look to take an incredible 10th successive win.

Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller
Verstappen makes history in Dutch GP thriller