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Mercedes desperate and Verstappen a champion? - What we learned at the Dutch GP

Mercedes desperate and Verstappen a champion? - What we learned at the Dutch GP

F1 News

Mercedes desperate and Verstappen a champion? - What we learned at the Dutch GP

Mercedes desperate and Verstappen a champion? - What we learned at the Dutch GP

What an incredible weekend the Dutch Grand Prix provided as F1 turned orange to watch Max Verstappen take victory at Zandvoort.

The sport's 36-year wait to return to the Netherlands proved to be worth it for the 70,000 fans at the track each day who were able to see their home hero claim a comfortable win.

Despite what appeared to be a race devoid of too much action, there are plenty of talking points to emerge from the second event of the second triple-header of the season, so here are five things we learned.

Verstappen lays down title gauntlet

This was the Verstappen and Red Bull dominance we saw at the Red Bull Ring two months ago and led us to suggest then the team had one hand on the title.

The gap between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton was never more than four seconds before the seven-time champion's final pit stop for a fastest lap attempt, yet there was a sense he was a cat playing with a mouse.

At various stages, Hamilton would close down the gap to the Dutchman only for Verstappen to in pump a time. It was clear he had the full measure of his title rival.

Qualifying may have been close, yet Verstappen suffered with a lack of DRS and a double-upshift, suggesting there was actually a gulf in class between the two teams over the weekend.

A very different circuit awaits next weekend in Italy and Mercedes will have to take victory on merit in order to quell suggestions it could be an easy run-in for Red Bull.

Mercedes strategy becoming desperate

Speaking of Mercedes, again we emerge from a race questioning a strategy call from the Silver Arrows.

At one stage during the second stint of the race, Hamilton had used traffic to close the gap between himself and Verstappen to around one and a half seconds.

Mercedes waited for three laps for Verstappen to make the gap three seconds before pulling the trigger to try and undercut, only to feed their driver into a three-car jam.

That in itself was a mistake, although the team recognised it was a gamble. But if so, why not take that gamble when the gap was able to be overhauled? It made no sense.

The caveat is there was, in all likelihood, no way of defeating Verstappen but at least give yourself a chance.

Ferrari holds upper hand over McLaren

A great weekend for Ferrari was slightly dampened by Fernando Alonso's move on Carlos Sainz for sixth on the last lap.

Nevertheless, with McLaren only mustering a 10th and 11th, the fight for third has swung firmly in the Scuderia's favour.

After being level going into the summer break, the gap now stands at 11.5 points. What is enthusing for the Italian outfit is the car is beginning to look quick at every track.

Engine power is still the primary issue for the team but the deficit to the other PU suppliers is negligible in comparison to a year ago.

The only regret the team will have is sitting behind Pierre Gasly at Zandvoort. Will it rue not taking full advantage of McLaren's sluggishness come Abu Dhabi?

Haas falling apart at the seams

Some serious fissures are appearing at Haas between Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin after yet another tumultuous weekend for the back-of-the-grid duo.

Tempers flared in qualifying when Schumacher passed Mazepin on their final out laps in Q1, a move the Russian claimed went against unwritten in-house protocol.

Mazepin's gripe was that he said he was given a "bollocking" when breaking the code in Imola, yet feels the harshness of tone was not reciprocated when Schumacher broke the rule in Austria.

So when the German again overtook Mazepin when it was his turn to lead, the latter was furious.

What he didn't know was that his team-mate was told to overtake in order to build tyre temperature. A team failing on communication? Maybe, but the relationship between drivers is breaking down.

To make matters worse, the pair collided in the opening stages of the grand prix. Schumacher has said he doesn't believe the relationship can be patched up.

It has to be, with the most important winter of the team's short history incoming, both drivers have to pull together to again propel Haas up the grid.

Zandvoort excels but race judgement must be withheld

Was the race a tad dull? Maybe. But there was genuine overtaking through the field, even if the TV direction - correctly - focused on the home hero's fluctuating gap at the front to Hamilton.

What has to be said is the organisation at the circuit was superb. The fans? Excellent. Atmosphere? Second to none.

The cars looked like rocket ships on track for the first time in a long time. The narrow, high-speed sweeps of Zandvoort really did justice to what these 20 drivers do for a living - they were made to look like rock stars all weekend.

Qualifying laps were scintillating. Let's hope the 2022 cars can allow for cars to follow closer next year because Zandvoort was a blast.

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