Copy of 2023-08-27T170605Z_625736807_UP1EJ8R1BI2UQ_RTRMADP_3_MOTOR-F1-NETHERLANDS-1693158260683
Red Bull's Max Verstappen passes the chequered flag to win the Dutch Grand Prix yesterday. Image Credit: Reuters

Zandvoort: Max Verstappen savoured a “special” home win in a chaotic, deluge-hit and red-flagged Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to match Sebastian Vettel’s record run of nine consecutive victories.

Fernando Alonso for Aston Martin took second with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly completing the podium at Zandvoort.

“Fantastic job, the weather didn’t make it easy for us,” said Red Bull’s double world champion.

The home favourite’s 11th success from the 13 races staged this season extended his lead to 138 points in the championship over teammate Sergio Perez, who finished fourth.

“I’m incredibly proud, I had goose bumps with the national anthem playing at the start.

“Even with all the bad weather and the rain the fans were still going at it, so an incredible atmosphere,” said Verstappen, to roars of delight from his orange army of fans.

“He’s done it, matched the nine victories of Sebastian, I mean what a performance today,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

For Red Bull this latest display of dominance in trying circumstances extended their record unbeaten run to 14 stretching back to Abu Dhabi last year.

In front of the massed ranks of his fans Verstappen maintained his iron hold over Zandvoort since the circuit carved into the dunes by the North Sea rejoined the F1 calendar, this was his third straight win from pole.

A carnival atmosphere rocking to Max’s beat greeted the grid at the start as the sell-out crowd took attendance to 305,000 over the weekend.

Unlike Red Bull’s metronomic form, the weather was proving unpredictable, a thunderstorm rolling off the North Sea towards the track.

At lights out at the seaside, Verstappen got off to a flyer, holding off his front lane companion Lando Norris of McLaren into turn one as the rain arrived.

A fleet of cars came in to switch from dry to soft tyres, leaving Perez leading from Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo.

In a personal landmark Liam Lawson, the New Zealand rookie called in to replace injured Daniel Ricciardo by AlphaTauri, clocked an early fastest lap in his first ever grand prix.

But he was then slapped with a 10sec time penalty for impeding in the pitlane.

Frantic opening laps

Verstappen was in fourth, 14sec off his Mexican teammate, after a frantic opening four laps.

The Dutch driver charged past Gasly and Zhou to go in hot pursuit of Perez, nine seconds up the road.

On a drying track, Verstappen pitted, with Perez doing likewise to give back the lead to the local hero on lap 13.

Logan Sargeant then embedded his Williams in the barrier at turn eight, triggering a safety car on lap 16.

“I don’t know what happened man, I crashed,” the American rookie muttered disconsolately, getting out of the car and collapsing on a nearby dune, his head in his hands.

The safety car came in on lap 22, Verstappen bunching the field up before putting his foot to the floor as Perez was forced to fend off Alonso.

“Darker clouds are coming in,” Verstappen told his pits in arguably the fastest weather forecast ever delivered, his car travelling at 250kph.

Perez trailed by more than five seconds at the midway stage of the 72-lap contest as Verstappen reeled off a series of quickest laps up front.

Charles Leclerc was forced to retire his damaged Ferrari 20 laps from the end.

Seven-lap dash

The weather gods, in mischievous mood all weekend, appeared to be the only obstacle between Verstappen and victory.

“We are expecting rain, some of it heavy, 10 laps from the end,” he was informed.

As the crowd readied their ponchos the promised deluge arrived, triggering chaos, with a flurry of pit stops and cars losing control forcing the race to be red-flagged with eight laps left.

The 45-minute delay gave the track DJs some unexpected extra work as track marshals did an impromptu conga-line dance down the straight.

The cars were eventually back out behind the safety car. When that disappeared, racing resumed under a rolling start procedure with the race reduced to a seven-lap dash to the chequered flag.

Verstappen held on for a hard-earned victory and the unstoppable Dutchman can now look forward to Monza next weekend when he has the chance to claim the F1 winning streak record outright.