Dutch Grand Prix Takes a Wet Turn
The Dutch Grand Prix is an interesting outing on the calendar; it’s a track unlike any other, with unique banking corners that require unconventional lines, tight walls, and fanatical crowds. As always, the race is exciting, but the unpredictable weather this year made for a chaotic outing.
With the fear of rain lingering in the air, the grid lined up mostly sporting soft tyres. As the lights went out, almost on cue, rain began to shower the track at Zandvoort. After just the first lap, Perez, Leclerc, and five other drivers were wise enough to opt for intermediate tyres.
This early decision played to Red Bull's advantage as the rain only worsened, forcing most of the field to pit the following lap after losing considerable time navigating the wet surface on slick tyres, giving Perez a wide-open opportunity to arrive at the top of the leaderboard only three laps into the race. Norris and Russell almost refused to believe that the rain was hammering down and opted to stay out another lap while dicing away at the front of the pack.
The two drivers eventually gave in to the wet conditions and changed tyres, but this late decision cost them in terms of track position. Red Bull's early pitstop strategy worked to great effect as, six laps in, Perez led the pack, closely followed by Zhou Guanyu and Gasly, with World Champion Max Verstappen hot on their heels.
By the 10th lap, the track began to dry, prompting teams to quickly switch from wet tyres to slicks. Everyone was tense, anxiously watching the grey clouds that still hinted at the possibility of rain.
Logan Sargeant was the first to fall victim to the wet surface and found himself buried in the barrier after spinning out on the 16th lap. This resulted in a safety car while also giving the sky more time to contemplate the next rain shower. Fortunately, the weather took a turn for the better as the sun appeared on the track, leaving a perfectly dry surface for the better part of the race, until the 62nd lap.
As the end of the race was fast approaching, the rain returned, and this time around, it wasn’t taking any prisoners. From the first round of showers, the field feared a repeat of the chaos caused by the earlier showers, with decisive strategies employed in favour of Inters. Despite it being the sensible choice, the rain whittled away at the field, with Perez locking up and sliding off the road.
Shortly after Perez's lucky escape at turn one, Yuki Tsunoda too found himself in the gravel, with the two Alfa Romeos sliding off shortly after, with Zhou Guanyu hitting the barrier and forcing another safety car outing.
On lap 66, racing resumed. Verstappen led all the way to the chequered flag, followed by Fernando Alonso. Pierre Gasly claimed the final podium spot, marking only his fourth podium appearance in his F1 career. Max is now level with Sebastian Vettel for the record for most consecutive wins.