As he heads to his home event, Max Verstappen has won all of the last three races. Will his winning streak continue in front of the Dutch crowd?
Here’s what to look out for at the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix!
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Sea, sand and racing – F1 is back at Zandvoort
Prepare for orange flares and an army of enthusiastic Verstappen supporters – the Dutch Grand Prix is back for its second appearance since rejoining the F1 calendar last year. Located among the sand dunes in the small seaside resort of Zandvoort, the eponymous track was a breath of fresh air last year.
While the atmosphere was great, the race itself wasn’t the most exciting affair. The narrow, twisting track proved difficult for overtaking. The top three finished in the order they started, with Max Verstappen delighting his home crowd and winning by over twenty seconds.
With the exception of Sergio Perez, who started near the back following a poor qualifying showing, no driver gained more than four positions from where they started. The use of DRS is set to be trialled through Zandvoort’s banked final turn during Free Practice, which could improve the overtaking show if its usage is approved for Sunday’s race.
Can anyone stop Verstappen?
There was a certain inevitability to Max Verstappen winning last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. Despite starting only 14th due to a power unit grid penalty, Verstappen carved his way through the field and won the race by almost twenty seconds. Spa was his third successive win. If he wins again this weekend, it will be the first time in his career that he has won four races in a row.
There’s little reason to believe Verstappen’s winning ways will come to an end this weekend, though the characteristics of the Zandvoort track are quite different to those last weekend at Spa. If Verstappen pulls off a home win for a second successive season, you can expect wild celebrations from the partisan crowd, who’ll know that Verstappen’s charge to a second title is nigh on unstoppable.
Another strategic error incoming from Ferrari?
While Red Bull are in commanding form, nearest title challengers Ferrari continue to struggle with strategy calls. The Scuderia have made a number of questionable decisions this year, the latest being pitting Charles Leclerc in the closing stages of the Belgian Grand Prix in order to set the fastest lap, only to be overtaken by Fernando Alonso and incur a time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Leclerc now trails Verstappen by 92 points in the title race, while Red Bull lead the way in the team standings by 118 points. To put that in context, Leclerc would need to outscore Verstappen by an average of 12 points in each remaining race to win the title this year – the equivalent of Leclerc winning and Verstappen finishing no higher than fourth. Given Red Bull’s current dominant form, that seems an increasingly unachievable target.
Will Alpine’s scoring streak continue?
Alpine continue to be the focus off-track as the contract saga surrounding Oscar Piastri rumbles on. This week, the rumour mill has Pierre Gasly heading the team in 2023, taking Fernando Alonso’s vacated seat alongside Esteban Ocon.
Alonso will equal another longevity record this weekend if he finishes the race. It will mark the 278th time he has crossed the finish line, equalling Kimi Raikkonen for the most finishes in F1 history. He’s currently on a nine-race scoring streak – his longest in over eight years. Only Max Verstappen holds a longer active scoring streak, the Dutchman having finished in the top ten at all of the last eleven races.
The Enstone-based team currently sit fourth in the standings, having been on a strong run of points scoring results. The team have seen both drivers score at all of the last four races, their longest such streak since their last title winning year under their Renault guise in 2006. Both Alonso and Ocon scored for the team here last year. Can they repeat that result in 2022?
Gasly impressed at Zandvoort last year
While Gasly is in the frame for a seat at Alpine next year, this weekend he equals Daniil Kvyat as the driver to have spent the most Grands Prix racing at the Red Bull junior team. Gasly was one of the drivers who impressed the most here last year.
After a strong qualifying session, the Frenchman maintained his position in the race to come home fourth. AlphaTauri are unlikely to be able to challenge for positions so high up this weekend, but the team was encouraged by last weekend’s performance. Gasly started from the pit lane following a last minute car issue on the grid and managed to bring home points with ninth place. More points could be up for grabs at Zandvoort.
Who has catching up to do?
Alex Albon, Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen are the only drivers on the grid who did not race at last year’s Dutch Grand Prix. Albon last raced at the track in 2015, Zhou last raced here in 2018 and Magnussen last raced here all the way back in 2011, well before the track was updated to its current form. The fact that these three drivers have no F1 experience at the circuit could give the upper hand to their team-mates in the intra-team battles.