RACE DEBRIEF

    Despite taking a record-breaking 19 race wins in the 2023 F1 season, Max Verstappen has singled out one particular Grand Prix that he believes could very easily have “gone so wrong”.

    After Verstappen and Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez each claimed two victories in the opening four events of the campaign, Verstappen then embarked on a winning streak from Miami onwards which lasted for an incredible 10 weekends.

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    However, it was the second to last of these wins – at Verstappen’s home race, the Dutch Grand Prix – that the world champion feels could have potentially gone awry had the correct strategy calls not been made.

    It proved to be a frenetic event, which started with a heavy rain shower on the opening lap. This triggered mixed strategies across the field, and caused pole-sitter Verstappen to slip backwards while Perez led the way.

    After working his way back to the front as a dry race unfolded, the heavens opened again in the latter stages and a red flag was thrown, before Verstappen then had to navigate slippery conditions en route to victory after the event was restarted with just seven laps remaining.

    ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 27: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red
    The Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort proved to be an eventful race

    When asked on the Talking Bull podcast to name a race in 2023 that came down to a bold strategy call, Verstappen responded: “Zandvoort. It was a crazy race where it could have gone so wrong, but I think we got a lot of calls right.

    “We have so many strategies calculated and processed before we even start the race, and then basically you just throw everything in the bin because it starts raining, and you have to make it up very quickly again. [We knew there might be] rain coming and stuff, but still [you have to manage] when it actually happens and then whatever happens on Lap 1 and if people are pitting or not.

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    “For example, Checo was P7 [on the grid] and he came out in the lead, while I stayed out one more lap, so the whole strategies were out of phase basically. But then I think the team did an amazing job for the rest of the race to always be on the right tyres at the right time, because it started raining, then we went back to slicks, then it started raining again, then it actually went even worse where we had to switch to extreme tyres at one point, then they red-flagged it.

    “So it was just very hectic, but the team, because of all the information that they had, made all the right calls as well.”

    verstappen-zandvoort-podium-trophy-2023.png
    Verstappen claimed his 11th race win of the 2023 season at Zandvoort

    Quizzed on how much the drivers are involved with making strategy decisions prior to the Grand Prix, Verstappen spoke of the trust he has in those responsible for analysing the data and assessing the possible options.

    “Of course, everyone has their own job, so we trust that they do the right things in terms of when they are working with the software,” the Dutchman explained.

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    “But of course every morning before the race we go in detail through the possible scenarios and strategies, and we share our opinion, then we go into the race normally happy with what is decided – normally! And most of the time of course it works out really well.”