On a Formula 1 circuit where Red Bull was not supposed to easily win on paper, Max Verstappen triumphed and the Dutch Grand Prix in fact represents an important moment in the championship. Last week at Spa-Francorchamps, the Austrian team showed a powerful display of dominance, but the circuit was clearly in their favor. An easy win at the Zandvoort circuit was certainly not in the forecasts.
Ferrari’s problems with race pace persist: it was a difficult race for the tires, but we will see during the analysis how the degradation was far too high. Having said that, let’s take a look at the key points from the Dutch Grand Prix, beginning from the start.
For the start, Pirelli suggested using the Soft instead of the Medium. The red tyre in fact could offer extra grip essential for the important starting phases. However, the mediums could have provided an easier operating window to manage than the Soft. Among the top teams, the only ones to choose the yellow tire were the two Mercedes. Both Ferrari and Red Bull made the same choice, preferring the red Pirelli tyre.
In the first laps after the start, Max Verstappen tried to push hard in order to immediately build a safety gap to Charles Leclerc, but from the pitwall they pointed out that the compounds had overheated and ordered him to cool them with a cleaner driving style. In the early stages of the race, with a full tank of fuel, Charles Leclerc had a decent pace on the Soft tyre, managing to put pressure on the Red Bull driver. However, he was unable to attempt an overtaking move on the Dutchman.
As pointed out by funoanalisitecnica.com, Charles lost his chance in the final sector, where in fact he just couldn’t stay close enough to the Dutchman. Observing the sectors of the two drivers in the first laps, the Ferrari driver lost 1 tenth on each lap in the last section. Only on one occasion did he manage to get close to Verstappen by going under his time.
The ones who opened the pit stop game from the leading group were Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, both to mount the medium tyre. The Spanish Ferrari driver was struggling on the red tire, so much so that Lewis Hamilton had come close. With the mediums, the Mercedes driver was able to impose his own pace, without having much degradation. As a result, Mercedes tried to lengthen the first stint as much as possible and go for a one stop race in normal conditions.
Also, by staying out longer they could also take advantage of any events on the track. A Safety car, or a Virtual Safety Car, would have allowed him to make a pit stop and win a lot of time. They also tried to focus on the only tire change. In order to attempt the one-stop strategy, it was necessary to mount the Hard tire.
At the seventeenth lap, Charles Leclerc was called by Ferrari for his first tyre change, as the Monegasque was beginning to struggle with his pace. A clean stop allowed him to switch to the yellow compound, thus being on the same strategy as his teammate. It is difficult to say if at that time Ferrari were more oriented towards a single or double pitstop. Having respected the two compound rule, they could have gone all the way to the end of the race or made another stop, depending on the degradation. Speaking of wear, once again the F1-75 seems to be less gentle on the tires.
By examining the laps of the first stint, we can assess the degradation of the three main cars. Charles Leclerc suffered a loss of 0.08s per lap, while Max Verstappen’s RB18 remained at 0.03s. Not a small difference considering they were on the same tire, the Soft.
Lewis Hamilton, who was running on the Medium, suffered a degradation of 0.05s, a much more “normal” figure. Max Verstappen’s victory is also related to this aspect: the driver and car seem to marry really well in these last few races.
In general, Charles was on average 2 tenths slower in the opening stint. The two Mercedes cars, on the other hand, doing a longer stint, lapped with about half a second gap per lap. Surely the first part of the race was the phase in which Ferrari was the most competitive at Circuit Zandvoort.
The two Mercedes cars stayed out as long as they could. On the track, George Russell was overtaken very easily by Max Verstappen. The Brit hardly put up any resistance, knowing that at that moment he simply had to try to keep his set of tires alive as much as possible. Both silver arrows passed on the Hard, trying something different.
The choice of the white tire was confirmed by the fact that Fernando Alonso had a good pace with the same compound that he had mounted on the twelfth lap. The hard tyre was the surprise of the day. In the Thursday briefings it was discarded, so much so that in the high fuel simulations the teams had not even tried it. It is difficult to understand why these tires have been so competitive on Sunday.
The Hard corresponds to the C1, which is the hardest rubber in the Pirelli range with the highest operating window. Zandvoort is a circuit where there are many corners in succession and the tire has no places to cool down. So it is very easy for compounds to go out of the optimal range, thus overheating.
Charles Leclerc then returned to the pit lane on lap 45 to mount the white band Pirelli tyres, which at the time were working very well on other cars. Shortly after, Tsunoda’s strange stop on the track resulted in a VSC that actually changed the cards on the table. This benefited Max Verstappen, who was able to make a free stop remaining in first position and switch to the white tire.
The Monegasque was unable to do the same by missing out on an opportunity. In Mercedes they also decided to make a free stop with both drivers to defend themselves from Charles, who was right behind them with a new Hard tire.
There was also the Safety Car, which appeared due to Valtteri Bottas stopping on the main straight. Max immediately returned to the box, otherwise he would have found himself with a hard tire at the restart, very difficult to activate. He mounted a brand new set of Softs, so as not to be vulnerable and to be able to push on Mercedes.
Show your support for Scuderia Ferrari with official merchandise collection from Puma! Enter the online Puma Store and shop securely! And get your F1 tickets for every race with VIP hospitality and unparalleled insider access. Click here for the best offers to support Charles and Carlos from the track!
The Mercedes strategists at the pitwall have decided to divide the strategies between the two drivers: George Russell changed to Softs, while Lewis Hamilton continued on the used Mediums. The yellow tire was not the correct choice for the last laps of the race, especially considering that his direct rivals were running on the softs. Charles Leclerc, having a red compound, managed to overtake Hamilton on the main straight. The Soft offered the grip necessary to remain attached to the car in front in the last corners of the track that lead to the main straight.
This last graph helps us understand very well the progress of the race for these six drivers. A number that is only used to try to understand the race for each of them. Max Verstappen’s overall race pace was obviously the best, followed by George Russell, who secured the podium in the final laps. About 2 tenths on average of difference between the two during the course of the race.
In third position we find Lewis Hamilton, who in fact would have deserved the podium more than Charles Leclerc, as the Monegasque on average lost 1 tenth per lap from the British Mercedes. Finally Carlos Sainz’s race, which was the worst among the drivers evaluated: he complained a lot about overheating and, therefore, accusing too much degradation. Compared to his teammate, he lost an average of 7 tenths each lap. A big deficit.