Hamilton seemed set to push for his first victory of 2022 at Zandvoort on Sunday but was stifled by pitting decisions and safety car deployments.
A virtual safety car was deployed after AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was forced to stop following tyre concerns, offering Verstappen a fortuitous pit stop when embroiled in a battle at the front with Hamilton.
Another safety car followed after Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas stopped citing engine concerns, with Verstappen again pitting – arguably a surprising decision that seemed to hand Hamilton the initiative.
But Verstappen roared back in typically aggressive fashion to overtake the seven-time world champion on the main straight of lap 61, before easing to victory ahead of George Russell in second.
That marked a 10th victory of the season for Verstappen, his joint-best return in a single year, while he became the first driver since James Hunt in 1975 and 1976 to win back-to-back F1 races at Zandvoort.
After delivering in front of a largely partisan crowd in the Netherlands, Verstappen credited Red Bull’s decisions that ensured he held off Hamilton through the latter stages of the race.
“It was not a straightforward race but we had to push, of course with safety car, virtual safety car, making the right calls,” he said on Sky Sports during his post-race interview.
“Always a bit of question mark but it worked out really well. Once we got back to the soft tyres we had great pace again.”
Asked whether he harboured any doubts over decisions as Hamilton pressed on, Verstappen added: “We timed it really well out of that last corner into the banking.
“You could see the draft was quite strong and we got ahead. It’s incredible to win again.
“It’s always special to win your home GP. This year I had to work for it even more. An incredible weekend and I’m really happy we got the Dutch GP.”
Charles Leclerc started second on the grid after being edged out by Verstappen in Saturday’s qualifying session, though the Ferrari driver had to settle for third on race day despite promising early signs of pace.
The Monegasque racer may have finished on the podium but sits 109 points behind championship leader Verstappen, and Leclerc conceded the Red Bull driver was a class above at the Dutch Grand Prix.
“To be honest, it was difficult to do much better,” Leclerc said. “We were a little unlucky with the [virtual safety car]. I don’t know if this would have changed anything – Max was too quick today.
“Then there was Mercedes, which were flying on the hard tyres. We struggled to find the feeling on the hard tyres, so we’ll analyse that.”
The F1 caravan moves to Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the Italian Grand Prix — 18th round of the FIA F1 World Championshiop on September 11.
As the F1 triple header concludes in Monza, it looks as though Verstappen is cruising towards his second FIA F1 World Championship as he leads Leclerc by 109 points. Buck up guys!
(With F1 Media/OPTA inputs)
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