Hometown Celebrations


Max Verstappen won his home race at the Dutch Grand Prix, which saw him win 2 races in a row as well as giving him the lead of the driver’s championship (courtesy of Twitter).

For the first time since 1985, Formula 1 returned to Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix. Heading into this race, the pressure was on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen racing in his home venue for the first time. And the “oranje army” was out in full support. The only thing you could see in the stands was orange shirts. Red Bull had the momentum following Verstappen’s victory at Spa in the red flagged race.

Before the race, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen announced that he will retire after this season, bringing his historic career to an end. The 2007 world champion has become a fan favorite, with the “Iceman” giving the fans iconic quotes and endless memes. He currently holds the record for the most F1 starts and the entire sport will miss him after this year. F1 also announced that he tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of the race with Alfa Romeo going to their reserve driver Robert Kubica to fill the seat.

During the weekend, Verstappen was consistently on the pace of his main rivals, Mercedes. When it came time for qualifying, the home star shone. He grabbed pole position, closely followed by Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas in second and third. The Dutch crowd roared with delight as Verstappen crossed the line in qualifying.

When it was time for the race, Verstappen had to retain the lead and build a gap from the pack. His teammate, Sergio Perez, was going to start from the pitlane, giving Mercedes a numerical advantage which could let them employ different strategies with their cars to take the win. When the lights finally went out, Verstappen launched off the line ahead of Hamilton.

Once again, the title rivals were in a league of their own and, after a few laps, miles ahead of everyone else. Hamilton blinked first and pitted on lap 20, with Verstappen pitting the lap after. Verstappen emerged from the pits still ahead of Hamilton, but the race lead shifted to Bottas. Verstappen was rapidly closing in but he had to be careful. If Verstappen failed to overtake Bottas, Hamilton could get even closer and potentially overtake him.

On lap 31, Verstappen passed Bottas, with Hamilton being let by immediately after so that he could continue chasing down the Dutchman. Verstappen still held the lead but it started to appear as if this sets of tires would not last the distance. The gap was now closer between the rivals.

Once again, Hamilton pitted first on lap 40, opting for another set of mediums. However, when he left the pit lane, he emerged on the track in traffic, with several backmarkers passing him. Mercedes misjudged by thinking that he would come out ahead of the cars. The backmarkers had to let Hamilton by due to the blue flag rules, but doing so still hampered Hamilton on his outlap, which is critical for any potential undercut. Verstappen then pitted the following lap and remerged still in the lead, now on the hard tires. They last longer but are slower than the mediums.

After a few laps, Hamilton was on the radio to his team asking why they pitted so early and chose the medium tires again, believing they would not last the rest of the race. Hamilton remained within touching distance of Verstappen as the laps were dwindling down.

After 72 laps, Verstappen never put a wrong foot forward as he won the Dutch Grand Prix to the fans’ delight, with orange smoke grenades filling the sky, to reclaim the championship lead. Hamilton placed second, but pitted to get the fastest lap point, with Bottas finishing third. You can find the full standings here.

After the race, the driver transfer market fully kicked off with Bottas announcing he is exiting Mercedes and replacing the Iceman at Alfa Romeo. This paved the way for George Russell to leave Williams and claim one of the hottest seats in the paddock. Russell was always in line for the Silver Arrows and I cannot wait to see him race alongside Hamilton with a car that can fight for both wins and the championship. More driver moves are still happening too as Williams replaced Russell with Red Bull’s reserve driver Alex Albon.

The next race is this week at the Monza for the iconic Italian Grand Prix. The “Temple of Speed” is a power circuit, so engine power will be at the forefront of the race order. This is another competition featuring the sprint race. There will only be two practice sessions on the weekend. Qualifying will be on Friday to set the order for the 25% sprint race on Saturday. The top three  will receive three, two and one point respectively. The sprint race will then set the order for the Grand Prix on Sunday. If Silverstone was any indication of how the sprint race will go, then we are set for another exhilarating installment of the 2021 Formula 1 season.