The new era of Formula 1 cars continued to provide exciting wheel-to-wheel racing on a circuit declared “difficult to overtake on” by people across the paddock. The Dutch Grand Prix was coincidentally much like the Circuit Zandvoort: it ebbed and flowed, with many turns and undulations, before we reached the most obvious conclusion. Despite the racing being excellent and the grid closer together on a one-lap pace, the result of the Dutch Grand Prix was exactly as expected (and what the orange army wanted): another Max Verstappen victory.
However, on Friday, Red Bull appeared to be in trouble, struggling for pace with Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren. By Free Practice 3 on Saturday, Red Bull and Verstappen were back at the top of the timing sheets. Formula 1 entered qualifying for The Dutch Grand Prix with three teams and five drivers with a chance of taking pole position. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was not in the fight and searching for pace throughout the Grand Prix weekend.
Dutch Grand Prix Qualifying
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was on pace to improve his best lap time and make it to Q2 before making a critical mistake enabling Williams’ Alex Albon and Alfa Romero’s Zhou Guanyu to escape Q1.
Potential future and current teammates Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, and Fernando Alonso finished Q2 within two-tenths of a second of each other. Aston Martin’s Stroll took the final spot in Q3 but did not participate in Q3, leaving nine drivers competing for pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix. Haas’ Mick Schumacher added a Q3 appearance to his job application for 2023, while Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda’s weekend peaked with a Q3 performance.
Charles Leclerc’s final lap in Q3 put him at the top of the timing sheets until the RB-18’s straight-line speed launched Verstappen into pole position by .021 seconds. The roar from the orange army as Verstappen’s time was posted was louder than the cars or electronic dance music of the Dutch Grand Prix. Sergio Perez unexpectedly qualified ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell for fifth, four-tenths of a second behind the top four. Verstappen, Ferrari’s Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished Q3 separated by 0.3 seconds at the most.
Dutch Grand Prix Review
From lights out and the dash to the first turn to the end of the Grand Prix, the Dutch Grand Prix was a winding, strategically changing, and action-filled race. We’ll review the most critical moments of the Grand Prix, including Ferrari being Ferrari….again.
Ferrari’s Dutch Grand Prix fell apart with Carlos Sainz’s lack of pace in the early stint of the race and a 12.7-second pit stop on lap 15. Why 12.7 seconds? A last-minute call to box sent an unexpecting Ferrari pit crew into a frenzy, and when Sainz arrived in the Ferrari pit box, the left rear tire was nowhere to be found. Sergio Perez pitted behind Sainz, leaving before Sainz and driving over a wheel gun Ferrari mechanics left in the RB-18’s path in a tight pit lane.
Sainz was also issued a five-second penalty for an unsafe release and almost ran afoul of yellow flag rules, passing into Turn 1 next to Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romero suffered another power unit failure on lap 53. This penalty dropped Sainz from finishing P5 on the road to 9. On the other hand, Charles Leclerc watched his race slip away when the Mercedes duo switched to the hard compound, with excellent results.
Mercedes took a gamble on strategy, starting the Grand Prix on medium tires. This strategic gamble paid off for Mercedes until Yuki Tsunoda went on his bizarre adventure.
Yuki Tsunoda’s Bizarre Adventure
After pitting on Lap 42, Tsunoda yelled over the radio that his tires weren’t attached properly, pulled off the track, and prepared to get out of the car. Alpha Tauri messaged Tsunoda to tell him the tires seemed ok and to bring the car back to the pits.
Tsunoda had loosened his seatbelts before being told to return to the pits. When Tusnoda finally made it back to the pit stop, new tires and a seatbelt adjustment resulted in a 30-second pit stop. As Tsunoda awkwardly left the pit box, it was clear something was still very wrong, leading to Tsunoda retiring the car in short order. There are unfounded and demonstrably false rumors regarding this retirement affecting the race’s outcome that has circulated online since this incident that deserve no more than this mention.
An Excellent Strategist + A Fast Car + The Best Driver in the Sport = Grand Prix Victories
Two separate safety cars made strategy a significantly large part of the Dutch Grand Prix, giving Red Bull and Mercedes a clear advantage over Ferrari. Verstappen pit for a used set of soft tires under the Bottas safety car, while Hamilton stayed out and took the lead. Hamilton was unhappy about his late-race strategy, made an engine mode selection error, and had cold tires leading to an easy overtake for Verstappen, who cruised to another Grand Prix victory.
Major credit should go to Red Bull Principal Strategy Engineer Hannah Schmitz for making the right strategic decisions at the right time throughout the 2022 season, playing a pivotal role in the Red Bull masterclass of 2022.