‘It’s an amazing day’ says Verstappen after retaking title lead with emotional home win
A near-perfect weekend at Zandvoort from home hero Max Verstappen saw the Red Bull driver win his second race on the bounce in front of his delighted ‘Orange Army’ of fans – including members of the Dutch royal family. And Verstappen described his experience of Zandvoort this weekend, as the circuit made it’s return to the calendar for the first time in 36 years, as “incredible”.
Key to his victory had been a strong start from pole, with Verstappen then managing the gap to title rival Lewis Hamilton throughout the 72-lap encounter of the twisting 2.6-mile circuit, coming home for his seventh win of the year as he moved past Hamilton to the top of the drivers’ standings by three points, with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas completing the podium.
“It’s an incredible feeling to win in front of the fans, but also the King was watching with the [royal] family, so just an amazing day,” said Verstappen. “I know the fans, of course they always have high expectations when you come here, they of course want you to win, but it’s never that straightforward before you get here.
“You've seen this whole year already, Mercedes and us, we’ve been really close to each other,” he added. “And to deliver at the end of the day, of course I’m very satisfied, yesterday already with pole but then also to win the race. What was crucial today was first of all the start. And then throughout the race, I was just managing that gap [so they] couldn’t undercut us.”
Verstappen may have won from pole – but he wasn’t afforded a moment’s rest by Hamilton, who forced the Red Bull driver to resist pressure throughout the race, before Hamilton ultimately called off the hunt and pitted two laps from the end, taking on softs before claiming a bonus point for fastest lap – with Verstappen praising his rival’s efforts.
“The whole race, it was quite close between myself and Lewis,” said Verstappen. “He was really putting the pressure on, he was putting some great laps in, I think also after the final stop – at one point [he was] on that medium tyre and I was on the hard tyre, but luckily it was enough at the end. But 72 laps around here, pushing – it was satisfying, it was cool!”
After effectively a pair of home races, and a pair of home victories, for Verstappen in Spa (his mother is Belgian) and the Netherlands, F1 now heads to the neutral turf of Monza for the Italian Grand Prix next weekend, as the F1 Sprint format makes its return.
And while the track hasn’t favoured Red Bull in recent years, with the team having never won here in the turbo hybrid era, Verstappen was confident of a stronger showing from the squad in the 2021 race, as they now look to close down the 12-point gap to Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
“Naturally it hasn't been our best track of the calendar the last few years,” said Verstappen, whose Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez recovered from a pit lane start to finish P8 at Zandvoort. “But of course, I know that this year we're more competitive in general everywhere. But nevertheless again, we just need to nail the details and then I'm sure we can be competitive.”