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Verstappen party as Ferrari hit last-chance saloon - What to expect at the Dutch Grand Prix

Verstappen party as Ferrari hit last-chance saloon - What to expect at the Dutch Grand Prix

F1 News

Verstappen party as Ferrari hit last-chance saloon - What to expect at the Dutch Grand Prix

Verstappen party as Ferrari hit last-chance saloon - What to expect at the Dutch Grand Prix

F1 roared back into life after the summer break with the Belgian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen cemented his claims for a second world title in sublime fashion.

The Red Bull driver eased his way through the field to take a comfortable victory despite starting from 14th at Spa-Francorchamps.

But what will the story be when the reigning champion returns to home soil for the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend? Here is what to expect at Zandvoort.

Verstappen to kick-off Dutch festival

It is hard to argue against this event being one of the best on the F1 calendar last year with a rave-like festival feel around the sandbanks of the Dutch venue.

A return to the Netherlands was made possible by the success achieved by Verstappen in his early career and the fans duly obliged to turn out in their droves to cheer on the home hero.

With their driver now world champion, the event can surely only get even bigger and better. On track, Verstappen could well send the crowd into a frenzy.

Simply put, there is no driver on the grid that can touch him and Red Bull right now with the dominance shown in recent races beginning to mirror that of Sebastian Vettel when the German went on a run of nine-straight race wins at the end of the 2013 campaign.

Betting against the favourite this weekend will surely be extremely foolish.

Ferrari enters the last-chance saloon

Not even the greatest Ferrari sympathiser could envisage Charles Leclerc becoming world champion for the first time in Abu Dhabi given the way events have panned out this season.

The gap between the Monégasque and Verstappen now lies at a staggering 98 points with the Red Bull beginning to look like the outright strongest package for the first time all year.

One feels that if Ferrari still believes it has a chance to take either championship, nothing other than a one-two with Leclerc winning will do on Verstappen's own turf.

If this result isn't achieved, the bunting and fireworks may as well be prepared for its rivals.

Mercedes reach watershed moment

If conspiracy theories were to be believed then the Mercedes W13 should have hit the front - or at least been closer to it - with F1's new technical directive regarding floors at the Belgian Grand Prix.

But whilst it was clear there would be no great shuffle in the pecking order, the Brackley-based outfit's struggles were alarming given steps had seemingly been taken to join Red Bull and Ferrari before the summer break.

The race pace again spared most of the team's blushes, with George Russell finishing fourth and keeping Carlos Sainz honest, but the gulf in performance over one lap leaves the future for the zeropod concept unclear.

Whilst the design will no doubt remain in place to the end of this season, team principal Toto Wolff's suggestion the car would be taken to the caves of Mercedes' memorabilia room may be an indicator of a newly-forged path for next season.

Unless, that is, performance can be found in Zandvoort. Time is running out for attention to be turned to the new campaign, however, so this may well be the last opportunity for the W13 to make a positive impression.

Alpine aiming to solidify top-four claim

The race for fourth in the constructors' title had looked to be a close contest between Alpine and McLaren just a few races ago, yet the French manufacturer came back from a stormy summer break to take a firm hold of the position.

Both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon scored whilst Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo fell outside the top 10 at Spa to stretch the advantage to 20 points ahead of the remaining eight races.

The plus point for Alpine is the A522 has now seen its form confirmed on multiple different types of race track. The negative is McLaren secured a podium with Norris on the last narrow, fast, twisty European circuit.

Can Williams replicate Spa form?

One of the standout performances in Belgium was that of Alex Albon.

The Williams driver reached Q3 to ensure every driver on the grid has now qualified within the top 10 on at least one occasion this year.

But Albon was able to retain a point-scoring position through the race despite the plethora of penalties forcing drivers out of position.

The team has finally made steps towards becoming a regular part of the midfield battle, with Albon the spearhead of that charge.

The next step will be to consistently challenge for points, with the first opportunity to do so coming at Zandvoort.

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