RACE DEBRIEF

    The return of the Dutch Grand Prix was a welcome one after the race’s 36-year hiatus, with the home fans lapping up Max Verstappen’s assured victory for Red Bull, as their man moved to the head of the drivers’ standings. But was it Verstappen, or one of his rivals, who ruled the roost in our Aramco F1 Power Rankings after Zandvoort? Our judges have had their say…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    What a home race Max Verstappen had at Zandvoort. Looking immediately in the groove on this wonderful, swooping circuit, Verstappen took pole on Saturday by just 0.038s from Lewis Hamilton – although he was hampered by a double upshift and no DRS, which he reckoned cost him three-tenths – while on race day, he drove brilliantly to neuter Mercedes’ planned pincer movement, claim the win and send the place into raptures.

    Verstappen duly moved to head of the drivers’ standings – and takes a perfect score, his second of the year after the Austrian GP, from our judges.

    READ MORE: Verstappen sends home fans wild with victory over Hamilton amid party atmosphere at the Dutch GP

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    “I wonder why,” said Gasly, when asked after qualifying P4 at Zandvoort – as Sergio Perez dropped out in Q1 due to a timing issue – why he hadn’t been considered for the Red Bull seat for 2022. And on the strength of his Dutch Grand Prix performance, you can see his point, with Gasly driving a metronomic, fast and assured race to hold off the threat from Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and help AlphaTauri maintain their 100% points record in 2021, as he came home fourth.

    READ MORE: ‘We were flying’ – Gasly says AlphaTauri were forced to slow him down en route to ‘amazing’ P4

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    Yes, Lewis Hamilton wasn’t able to prevent Max Verstappen taking either the pole or the win this weekend. But lordy, he made the Dutchman work hard for those results, pulling out a superb lap in qualifying – nearly three-tenths quicker than Valtteri Bottas could manage – for P2 on the grid, while in the race Hamilton was at his edgy, gritty best, taking the fight to Verstappen as hard as he could in a car that was second best this weekend.

    READ MORE: Mercedes got it wrong on strategy says Hamilton – but admits Verstappen was ‘on another level’

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    “I don’t know how he does it,” chuckled former team mate Jenson Button as he watched back Fernando Alonso’s phenomenal start to the Dutch Grand Prix for Sky Sports F1. Alonso was indeed superb at the start, going high on the banking at Turn 3 as he slingshotted his way from his P9 grid slot to P7 by the end of Lap 1 – while he’d then nab P6 from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the very final lap. Alonso’s comeback is really turning into one of the success stories of the season.

    READ MORE: 'I was not in control of the car' – Alonso says he got lucky as he chased Sainz in closing stages at Zandvoort

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    In many ways, it was a tough Dutch Grand Prix for Charles Leclerc, who was able to start and finish in his P5 spot, but lacked the pace to do anything about Gasly in front. That will have been a shame for the Monegasque, who was fastest of anyone in Free Practice 2 on Friday, but he nonetheless banked a decent heap of points to help Ferrari move back to P3 in the constructors’ standings, as their home race at Monza beckons.

    READ MORE: 6 Winners and 6 Losers from the Dutch GP – Who had the crowd on their feet at Zandvoort?

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    With Antonio Giovinazzi knowing that he’s fighting to be kept on at Alfa Romeo and partner Valtteri Bottas at the team for 2022, the Italian really stepped up in qualifying with an outrageous showing to take seventh on the grid, a full 0.343s quicker than the next fastest car. A victim of circumstance on the first lap, Giovinazzi was 10th by the end of the opening tour, while a puncture then scuppered a race that had promised so much.

    ANALYSIS: Why Bottas signed for Alfa Romeo – and what it means for Mercedes, Williams and the rest of the driver market

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    No, he didn’t light up the timesheets like Giovinazzi did on Saturday. But what an impressive job Robert Kubica did this weekend, jumping into the Alfa Romeo at short notice after Kimi Raikkonen – fresh from his retirement announcement – revealed he’d contracted Covid-19. Kubica then did himself proud by outqualifying both Haases, before driving to P15 in a respectably incident-free Sunday drive.

    READ MORE: Why Mercedes’ two-pronged pincer movement on Verstappen failed at Zandvoort

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    On a weekend where the Alpines had showed impressive speed at times, Esteban Ocon admitted that he’d wanted a little more from his Zandvoort outing, as he came home ninth, having failed to match the swashbuckling antics of his quadragenarian team mate Alonso. Still, it was a valuable pair of points in the bank for the Frenchman, who's now picked up points at every race since Alpine changed his chassis at Silverstone.

    WATCH: Esteban Ocon thinks 'more was possible' than P9 finish at Zandvoort

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    Wiping his Ferrari SF21 along the Turn 3 wall in Free Practice 3 wasn’t Sainz’s finest hour. But mistakes like these were always likely in his first year at the Scuderia, while Sainz recovered well from it to qualify 0.010s off Leclerc a few hours later. He then lacked the pace of his team mate in the race, however, eventually getting mugged by Alonso on the final lap to come home seventh.

    READ MORE: ‘I honestly didn’t enjoy it at all, I had zero pace’ – Sainz baffled by poor showing, as Leclerc takes P5

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    It’s rare for Lando Norris to have an off weekend in 2021 (you could argue that the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was comfortably beaten by Daniel Ricciardo, was his only really lacklustre showing so far this year).

    But by the lofty standards of the driver who sits second on our Power Rankings leaderboard, his Zandvoort weekend wasn’t great, Norris missing Q3 for the first time this year (not helped by red flags) before recovering to 10th from 13th on the grid, Norris admitting that he’d had to adapt his driving style to make his McLaren MCL35M work around Zandvoort this weekend.

    READ MORE: McLaren drivers happy to put ‘abnormal’ Dutch GP behind them after losing P3 to Ferrari

    Race Highlights: 2021 Dutch Grand Prix

    MISSING OUT

    Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez find themselves tied on 11th spot this week. In his final race for Mercedes before news dropped of his departure to Alfa Romeo for 2022, Bottas couldn’t match the high-wire driving of team mate Hamilton on Saturday and Sunday, but still came home for a podium.

    READ MORE: ‘I was just playing around’ says Bottas as he denies team friction over fastest lap attempt

    Perez, meanwhile, was unfortunate to drop out of Q1, and thereafter used his superior car performance to do a decent job to work his way back to P8.

    2021 Dutch Grand Prix: Bottas gets fastest lap against Mercedes team orders

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    Max Verstappen’s lead grows at the top of the standings, while Pierre Gasly nips into P5, demoting new Mercedes signing George Russell to sixth. Eagle-eyed fans will notice that Robert Kubica hasn’t made the cut despite now technically having a season-average of 7.3 – with our judges ruling that it went against the spirit of the Power Rankings to include the Pole.

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