In a race that had thrills and spills but still produced the expected outcome, Max Verstappen’s victory at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday was anything but straightforward.
The champion-elect was fully expected to claim a ninth-straight victory at his home race but torrential rain and a red flag made for a far more exciting contest than many predicted.
Another victory for Verstappen now sees the frontrunner move to 339 points in the Drivers’ Championship, with second-place Sergio Perez his closest contender all the way back on 201.
A ninth-straight F1 victory equalled Sebastian Vettel’s all-time record that was set back in 2013 and next Verstappen will be looking to break new ground as he goes in search of victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
|Italian Grand Prix
|Monza Circuit, Monza, Italy
|14:00, Sunday, 3rd September
|How to watch
|Sky Sports F1
|Max Verstappen 1/4, Sergio Perez 17/2, Lando Norris 16/1, Lewis Hamilton 16/1
The weather played a big role in Sunday’s race, as Verstappen lost his lead at the start of the race to Red Bull team-mate Perez.
It was not until the 13th lap before Verstappen was able to recapture the lead and was then on course for victory in front of his home fans at the Zandvoort Circuit.
However, a torrential downpour with just eight laps remaining saw the race delayed by 45 minutes and created an extra buzz about the final laps.
Despite the delay and the build-up of pressure for the conclusion of the race, the two-time world champion Verstappen held his nerve and showed just why he is streets ahead in the Drivers’ Championship this season.
Verstappen and Red Bull will have already turned their attentions to the next race at the Italian Grand Prix on 3rd September, with the Dutchman at 1/4 to land that 10th consecutive race win.
In what was a combative Dutch Grand Prix, veteran Fernando Alonso showed all his experience to grind out second spot on the podium.
The Aston Martin ace took advantage of a Perez mistake in the wet and did enough to claim second place, while the Mexican Perez had a day to forget.
Having finished the race in third place, Perez was later penalised for speeding in the pit lane and therefore Alpine's Pierre Gasly took the final podium position.
As for Alonso, the Spaniard was pleased with his performance and felt he got the most out of his car on the day.
He said: "Days like today, I felt like I was at my best and was giving 100% of my abilities in a racing car. But maybe (at the last race) in Spa, or in Austria (three races previously), I was not on that level.
"So you always feel there is room to improve and you are not 100% happy with yourself as I am today. And I think Max is achieving that 100 per-cent more often than us at the moment, than any other drivers, and that's why he's dominating."
"So you always feel there is room to improve and you are not 100% happy with yourself as I am today. And I think Max is achieving that 100% more often than us at the moment, than any other drivers, and that's why he's dominating."
With the conditions making life difficult for all drivers on the circuit, Verstappen once again showed his quality.
Much has been made about the pace of his Red Bull this season but it requires a special talent to navigate the car in hazardous conditions.
Verstappen did just that and earned high praise from his team principal Christian Horner, who also mentioned to consecutive race record that is there for the taking at Monza next month.
Horner said: "Quietly, he is very proud of what he is doing and achieving. The record Sebastian did in 2013, to win nine in a row is insane, and so to have done it in a team with another driver is something I don't think any of us could have envisaged."
With the Red Bull traditionally even stronger in race trim than it is over a single lap, it's no surprise that Verstappen is such a short-priced favourite.
In Belgium, just before signing off for the summer break, he won by 22 seconds despite starting sixth on the grid following a penalty, while at the previous race in Hungary he came home 33 seconds clear of his closest pursuer.
Third-place qualifier George Russell joked after qualifying that the home hero would have plenty of time to wave to the crowd as he disappears into the distance during the race, and it's just 4/6 that the winning margin is over 12 seconds.
There were plenty of times during qualifying when Lando Norris looked as though he might have Verstappen's measure, and the McLaren driver sat at the top of the times when Q3 was halted following Leclerc's crash with just over four minutes remaining.
That left enough time only for one more flying lap but although Norris posted his best effort of the day, he couldn't hold off Verstappen.
He is unlikely to fare any better in the race, although at Silverstone Norris was able to keep the Red Bull in his sights, while the strong possibility of a wet race at Zandvoort could also be in his favour.
Oscar Piastri, in the other McLaren, also set some impressive times, particularly when the track was wet.
The Australian rookie will be disappointed to be lining up only eighth on the grid, but he is 11/10 to recover for a top-six finish.
Williams weren't expecting to be strong at Zandvoort but Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant looked sharp in practice and backed that up in qualifying.
American rookie Sargeant reached Q3 for the first time in his short career but then lost control and went hard into the barriers, bringing out the red flags.
Albon was competitive on wet tyres and put in a sensational final effort to qualify a season-best fourth.
His last top-ten start, at Silverstone, saw him run comfortably in the points throughout the race and finish eighth, and Albon is 10/11 to hold on for a place in the top six.
Sargeant finished a career-best 11th in that Silverstone race, one place outside the points, and it's 12/5 that the Williams pair both come home in the top ten at Zandvoort.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton contended for the win in the Netherlands last year, but he starts only 13th this time.
The Mercedes driver was complaining about his car's handling throughout qualifying, and he was eliminated in Q2.
Hamilton was downbeat afterwards, unable to offer an explanation for his lack of pace, particularly compared to team-mate Russell, who starts third. However, he is rated a 4/6 chance to recover for a top-six finish in the race.
As Max Verstappen looks to continue his runaway defence of the F1 Drivers' Championship, the Red Bull star is very much the man to beat in Dutch Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
Verstappen is going in search of three straight wins in his home Grand Prix at Zandvoort, and the Dutchman will take some stopping to be denied taking the chequered flag this weekend.
|Dutch Grand Prix, Qualifying
|14:00-15:00, Saturday 26th August 2023
|How to watch:
|Sky Sports F1
|Fastest qualifier: Max Verstappen 2/5, Lando Norris 7/1, Lewis Hamilton 15/2, Charles Leclerc 20/1
It’s been the story of the 2023 season so far, as Verstappen has been head and shoulders better than the rest of the field so far this year.
Winning 10 of the first 12 races of the campaign, Verstappen is going in search of a ninth consecutive race win this weekend, something he is 1/4 to achieve.
After the summer break, the reigning champion should be raring to go and will be backed by a fanatical home crowd at Circuit Zandvoort.
Winning the Dutch Grand Prix in both 2021 and 2022, Verstappen will be going all out to land what would be a special hat-trick of wins on home soil.
Verstappen’s RB19 has been something to behold this season and has not only carried him to 10 wins so far, but has often seen him win by over 20 seconds.
That sort of pace is tough to compete with and is why he’s the firm favourite at 2/5 to come out on top with the quickest time in qualifying on Saturday.
Aside from heavy favourite Verstappen, the prices jump up when looking at any other driver capable of recording the fastest time in qualifying.
McLaren’s Lando Norris has impressed this season as his team’s upgrades have made him a serious contender for a podium finish at the weekend.
Back-to-back second places at both the British GP and Hungarian GP caught the eye, especially due to the fact those are two very different types of circuits.
Norris will be eager to return to the podium this weekend and the Englishman is available at 7/1 to cause a shock and record the fastest qualifying time on Saturday.
Looking at the last qualifying before the summer break and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was the second-fastest driver at Spa.
The Monegasque racer impressed in qualification and went on to secure third place in the Belgian Grand Prix behind the Red Bull pair of Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
However, Leclerc has some ground to make up in the Drivers’ Championship in the battle for third spot behind the Red Bull duo.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso currently stands in third place on 149 points, with Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton just a point behind.
Leclerc is down in fifth place in the Drivers’ Standings on 99 points, but his efforts in Belgium will give him hope of having a good weekend at Circuit Zandvoort.
The 25-year-old is available as an outsider at 20/1 to land the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday.
Heading into practice there were concerns Lance Stroll would not be able to feature in this weekend’s race due to illness.
Stroll was a no-show for his media obligations on Thursday, but a statement from Aston Martin confirmed he will be ready for qualifying.
“He is fit and well and will compete at this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix,” confirmed a spokesperson for Aston Martin.
Stroll has only just returned from a summer break and his preparations may have been hampered ahead of the action at Zandvoort.
The Canadian is 100/1 to cause a major upset and earn the fastest time in qualifying this weekend.