Max Verstappen Kills the Zandvoort Grand Prix
The Dutchman capitalized on the home-town crowd and some questionable choices from Mercedes, to take the win.by Josh Conturo, on
Sunday, September 5, 2021, saw the un-official restart of the 2021 season at Zandvoort in The Netherlands. Orange smoke clouded the circuit almost all day as the Dutch crowd went crazy whenever their hometown boy flew past in the RedBull race car. It all started with the best un-official season restart ever, with Max Verstappen landing a three-second gap ahead of Hamilton early in the race.
The best Start to an Un-official Season Restart Ever
The race began with Max Verstappen getting a quick start and cutting off Lewis Hamilton into the first corner, at which point the Dutchman slowly but surely began pulling away. Eventually, he secured about a 3-second gap between himself and Hamilton.
Additionally, Sergio Perez and Nicholas Latifi had to start the race from the pit lane, the former of which finished in 8th, making up 12 places throughout the race and winning the "driver of the day" award.
They had to start in the pit lane due to penalties for replacing key components of their cars.
Most of the race saw Verstappen leading, except following a pitstop which momentarily put him behind Valtteri Bottas, who Verstappen overtook with the help of DRS.
Pitstops Matter More Than You’d Think
The final result of the race might have been different if it weren’t for Mercedes’s weird pit stop strategy. At first, they had a one pit stop strategy-stopping about a quarter of the way through the race to switch from the soft tires to the hard tires.
However, they switched it to a two-stop strategy, deciding to stop once to change onto the medium tires and then stopping again to go back onto the softs.
The first time Hamilton came into the pits was lap 21 and changed onto medium tires, he emerged in 3rd place and was 13 seconds behind Bottas.
A lap later, RedBull responded and pulled Verstappen into the pits for a similar strategy, putting him on mediums. When Verstappen emerged from the pits, he was in 2nd and 10 seconds behind Bottas, who was struggling on his worn soft tires.
At turn 11, lap 30, Bottas inevitably ran wide and was overtaken by Verstappen. Within the next few corners, Bottas had moved aside to let Hamilton past, as he had the best chance of beating the Dutchman and his RedBull race car.
After this fiasco, Mercedes order Bottas to pit to get a fresh set of medium tires on lap 32. By the end of lap 32, half the field was at least one lap behind the leader.
Mercedes Made A Bit of a Mistake
On Lap 40, Hamilton pulled into the pits for a new set of medium tires. A lap later, Verstappen came in for the slower but more durable hard tires.
This came back to bite Hamilton, as he was unable to close the 1.5-second gap to Verstappen. Due to the faster degradation to Hamilton’s medium tires, he began falling behind at a staggering pace.
On lap 68, an eye-watering statistic came over the broadcast; the only cars that would finish on the lead lap would be the podium finishers of Verstappen, Hamilton, and Bottas. Everyone else had been lapped at least once.
At the end of the 72 lap race, Verstappen crossed the finish line with a 20.9 second lead over 2nd place Lewis Hamilton.