Dutch GP 2023

AUGUST 28, 2023

Race Analysis - Verstappen continues win streak in chaotic wet home race

Podium, Dutch GP 2023
© Red Bull

By Peter Habicht

Max Verstappen continued his streak with Red Bull to take his ninth win this season in front of a sold out home crowd while enduring alternating dry and wet conditions at the Zandvoort circuit today.

Waves of rain descended upon the seaside venue all afternoon to create strategic challenges and opportunities for teams who deployed every available tire compound and tread to counter changing conditions throughout the 72 lap race.

A dry start to the race was short lived with Fernando Alonso's Aston taking third from George Russell's Mercedes in the opening lap as incoming weather called for intermediate tires soon after. With the back half of the field pitting early for intermediate tires, a late pit from the lead by Verstappen on lap 4 saw him behind teammate Sergio Perez who found himself in front of the field. Verstappen quickly made his way through to take third by lap 6, setting fastest lap by lap 8.

Drying track conditions soon called for another round of tire changes as two laps later McLaren's Oscar Piastri had taken fastest lap on soft tires. Max was able to pit ahead of Perez and by lap 13 had undercut his teammate for the lead. After that he never looked back with the crowd in high spirits and new storm cells due to arrive at the circuit.

Alonso and Alpine's Pierre Gasly did well in the first round of pit stops running behind the red bulls in 3rd and 4th by the 14th lap when Williams' Logan Sargeant brought out the first red flag after losing hydraulic pressure as he loaded up the suspension at turn seven, sending him into the barriers by turn eight. With the safety car out and 55 laps left to go, Russell pitted and emerged with hard tires, Pierre Gasly, Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou and Valtteri Bottas, Haas' Nico Hulkenberg as well as Aston's Lance Stroll all emerged on medium tires, with Gasly receiving a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Williams missed the optimal window to pit Alex Albon from his original set of soft tires, with a quickly drying track allowing him to move up from to seventh place, where he managed his aging softs well for 44 laps. Spilt second decisions had outsized outcomes in today's weather, with the field gathering up around the compact circuit at key junctures in the race.

Dark clouds were gathering by lap 31 as Verstappen led Perez, Alonso and Gasly from Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, whose teammate Charles Leclerc suffered from a slow pit stop and nose change following contact with Piastri in the opening lap.

Another round of pitstops wouldn't arrive for 30 laps, by which time the Mercedes team were running in seventh and eighth. Leclerc would continue until lap 45 until the team retired the car with floor damage from his lap one incident. With Russell still on the hard tires, Hamilton overtook as rain began to fall heavily by lap 62.

Verstappen would pit next lap for intermediate tires from the lead, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon back out on extreme wet tires in anticipation of continued heavy rain. Perez was next in the pits as Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou went into the barrier at turn one, brining out the red flag and effectively halting Perez' race as he sat int he pit exit behind the safety car. Fortunately for Perez, the race was halted, however he would receive a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane, which ultimately cost him a chance at the podium.

After a prolonged break to repair the barriers at turn 1, a rolling restart on a drying circuit brought cars back out on intermediate tires behind the safety car on lap 65, where Verstappen continued his lead from Alonso, Perez, Gasly, Sainz, Hamilton, Russell and Norris. The last of these two making contact shortly after the restart in a racing incident which would end up with Russell pitting after a puncture from Norris' car.

Sainz, Hamilton and Norris went on to put on a great show as Norris watched Hamilton nearly make contact with Sainz has he pushed the Spaniard hard for position to the end.

Alonso, who finished just 3.744s behind Verstappen, was happy with his team's return after the summer break:

"I felt great today, the car was alive. I was feeling connected to the car today from the beginning. We overtook a few cars at the start and then in the very difficult conditions in the first laps we were very fast. even faster than Max. At the end to finish P2 after the difficulties that we went through in the month of July it feels like being alive again. I was happy with the car. I was in sync with the car. If I wanted to push, the car was responding well. If I wanted to save a little bit of the tires or something, the car was also giving me the right answers. It's one of those races where everything works fine."

He went on the share his thoughts on the race in general: "I felt also there were lot of things going on. After four weeks of nothing in the break in August, we had everything in one race. We had the red flag, we had the safety cars, the rain, the dry, the overtaking, so a lot of emotions to go through. I need to sleep today and rethink what happened tomorrow morning when I wake up."

The finishing order behind Alonso was Gasly, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Oscar Piastri, Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg, AlphaTauri's Liam Lawson, Valtteri Bottas, Lawson teammate Yuki Tsunoda, Haas' Kevin Magnussen and George Russell.