Four wins in a row speak their own language. In Zandvoort, Max Verstappen's victory was mainly due to the optimal choice of tires and the mistakes of the others.
It could have been quite a boring race in the Zandvoort dunes. On the one hand, there are hardly any overtaking opportunities, on the other hand, Max Verstappen, who took the lead from the start, set the tone very early on. But it was not going to be an easy march over the distance of 72 laps. Rather a bit like casino.
Mercedes surprises with hard tires
"It was a complicated strategic race," said team boss Christian Horner. "The two-stop strategy was faster for us, we still had a new set of softs and wanted to make full use of them in the first stint. That worked."
But Mercedes became dangerous for the cops. Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell started with the medium tires. Hamilton stopped on lap 29 and switched to the hard tyre. The pace of the two Silver Arrows was outstanding afterwards. One delivered one fastest lap after the other. Verstappen, on the other hand, was on the medium tires.
"When I heard during the race that Mercedes was switching to hard tires, I was really curious," said Verstappen. "Because that was the mixture I should never use in Grand Prix. I asked about their lap times and was amazed. I picked up my pace at every stage, but they were still faster. I was really amazed at the speed they were get out of the hard hoop."
Virtual Safety Car turns the tide
For a short time it looked like Hamilton could possibly win the race. But the virtual safety car, which rolled out because of Yuki Tsunoda's damaged Alpha Tauri, brought the first whirlwind. "When the virtual safety car came out, we also went on the hard tires because we saw how they performed," says Horner.
When the safety car phase was later ordered by Valtteri Bottas because of the stalled Alfa-Sauber, Verstappen was in the lead. "That was the braver decision to bring in your driver, who is leading in front of 105,000 spectators at home, and give up the track position to Mercedes," explains the Red Bull team boss. The local hero got the soft tire.
Verstappen wins the restart
Hamilton accepted the gift and stayed out on medium tires. At first he also had Russell on his back as a marksman. But then Mercedes decided to bring the youngster in during the safety car phase and to equip him with soft tires like Verstappen.
Hamilton had overslept the restart and with the medium tires he was easy prey for Verstappen on soft. "At moments like this you have to have faith in your team that they are doing the right thing. I was second to Lewis, with Russell also behind me on soft tyres. Then I had a really fabulous restart and I was able to do it with a lot of momentum and, thanks to a better top speed, pass Hamilton right away," said Verstappen.
Horner adds: "I was surprised why they didn't let Russell out to protect Lewis. After that, we just controlled the race. It was tactically tough, but we made the right decisions."