Max Verstappen has won his home Dutch Grand Prix on a chaotic mixed-weather afternoon for a record-equaling ninth consecutive race victory.
Verstappen started on pole position and held the lead off the line, but his win was far from assured by the time he got to the final corner, where the heavens had opened to dump heavy rain onto the circuit.
Though rain was on the radar, it hadn’t been forecast to arrive for another half-hour, catching teams and drivers by surprise. Barely a handful of drivers responded by pitting for intermediate tires immediately. Sergio Perez, having started seventh, was the first among those to enter pit lane.
Those who stayed out had a mind to tough out the conditions, but the rain only intensified on the second tour. Verstappen was convinced to come in ahead of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz for intermediates. But the early stoppers had already dealt significant damage to those who followed on later laps. Sergio Perez powered himself into the lead on lap three, easily slicing past the drivers who were still crawling around the track in the downpour.
Verstappen had briefly dropped to as low as 11th before recovering places to other drivers stopping. With his inters up to temperature, he barged past both Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu with some muscular moves to slot into second behind his teammate. The gap stood at more than 11 seconds, but he was lapping at a ferocious pace, reducing the margin by around four seconds per lap.
By lap 10 the circuit was dry enough for the slick tires to be faster than intermediates, and Red Bull Racing was keen to ensure Verstappen didn’t miss the opportunity to switch a second time.
Despite not yet having regained the lead, the home favorite was given the benefit of the first pit stop on lap 11, giving him an easy undercut past Perez when the Mexican pitted on the following lap. He stretched his lead to more than 10s by lap 60 when the rain returned to shuffle the order again.
The entire field pitted between laps 60 and 61 for intermediates with the exception of Esteban Ocon, who switched to the full wet tire in anticipation of a deluge. He got more than he bargained for when on lap 63 the circuit was drenched in a cloudburst that spat several drivers off track at the first turn, including Perez, who dropped to third behind Alonso. The Mexican managed to rejoin, but when Zhou slammed into the barriers at the speed, race control was forced to red-flag the race.
The suspension lasted for almost 50 minutes before the race resumed with a rolling restart. Verstappen controlled the pack ahead of a probing Alonso with five racing laps left on the clock, and the home hero eked home to an ultimately comfortable 3.7s victory.
“Incredible,” he said. “Today they didn’t make it easy for us with the weather to make all the right calls. I’m going to enjoy this weekend.”
Alex Albon leads Fernando Alonso at the start. Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images
Alonso had been running third after a pair of incisive passes on Alex Albon and George Russell on the first lap and inherited second place from Perez before the red flag. The Spaniard held off the faster Red Bull Racing car through to the flag to return to the podium with a runner-up finish and the bonus point for fastest lap.
“It was a very intense race,” he said. “Obviously at the beginning with he wet conditions we were very, very fast.
“In these conditions you need a car that you can trust, and I did trust the car a lot today, so I did enjoy it.”
Pierre Gasly made big gains from 12th on the grid by perfectly timing his first two stops in the initial showers, rising eight places by the dry portion of the race to run fourth. But a five-second penalty for Perez after the restart for speeding in the pit lane opened the door to an unlikely podium finish, which the Frenchman duly seized.
“What a race,” he said of the fourth podium of his career. “I’m super pleased for all the guys to get P3.
“Obviously I tried to push as hard as a I could to try to stay within five seconds. Greatly executed by all the guys.”
The penalized Perez finished fourth, spared a further drop only by Carlos Sainz needing to defend against Lewis Hamilton for the final five laps, dropping the pair backwards form the podium and into the clutches of Lando Norris.
Norris had been among the worst affected by the first burst of rain at the start of the race, having attempted to stay out on slicks before relenting for an inters switch too late to be effective. He’d been running as low as 13th once the field switched back to slicks, but the safety car to clean up after the crashed-out Logan Sargeant on lap 16 closed the field in his favor, and strong pace on softs clawed him back into the points.
Alex Albon bypassed the pit-stop question early in the race by staying out through the rain on slicks, a decision that eventually swung back towards him and facilitated four points for eighth.
Oscar Piastri finished ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon in 10th.