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Mercedes rejuvinated as Ferrari find new way to blunder - What we learned at the Dutch GP

Mercedes rejuvinated as Ferrari find new way to blunder - What we learned at the Dutch GP

F1 News

Mercedes rejuvinated as Ferrari find new way to blunder - What we learned at the Dutch GP

Mercedes rejuvinated as Ferrari find new way to blunder - What we learned at the Dutch GP

Max Verstappen continued his reign as the king of Zandvoort after taking pole position and the race victory at the Dutch Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver is the only person to do so in the two races at the venue since F1 returned to the Netherlands last season, sending the home crowd into a frenzy of celebration.

But despite concerns over a lack of overtaking due to the track layout, Mercedes, a virtual safety car and a safety car conspired to create an exciting spectacle in amongst the sand dunes.

So with Red Bull retaining its domination but the Silver Arrows finding form, here's a look at what we learned across the weekend.

Mercedes back in the game

For a short while, Lewis Hamilton seemed to be in the running for his first race victory since the end of last season.

Mercedes had put both Hamilton and George Russell on a one-stop strategy and having started fourth and sixth, the decision had put both W13s into the fight with Verstappen ahead.

With a shade under 30 laps remaining it looked certain that the Dutchman would have to overtake both rival cars after his final pit stop to win the race but a virtual safety car for Yuki Tsunoda's bizarre retirement gave the reigning champion the opportunity to take a free pit stop.

When Verstappen made another stop in the next safety car period, Hamilton was powerless to defend against the soft-tyres fitted to the RB18.

But despite eventually finishing second and fourth, the Mercedes was fundamentally competitive all weekend - Hamilton could have challenged for pole position had it not been for late yellow flags - which will provide much-needed motivation after a difficult year for the Brackley-based team.

Monza will be a challenge but afterwards, who knows?

Red Bull strategy untouchable

The Red Bull strategy team is simply on another level to any other on the grid.

The championship leads of 109 points for Verstappen and 135 in the constructors' have been forged from slick tactical decisions whilst Ferrari dithers and drops the ball.

On Sunday, the strategy helped overcome a stern challenge presented by Mercedes and whilst the safety cars brought an element of luck, the quick thinking of Hannah Schmitz and her team provided Verstappen with the tools for victory.

Perhaps most impressive was the willingness in giving up track position for the final restart knowing that the soft tyres would be a better option than the hards its driver was already on.

We have seen in the past how rival teams are unwilling to switch to a better tyre due to the fact they see track position as king in such situations.

The bravery and execution Red Bull has displayed all season will make the team worthy champions. Ferrari, on the other hand...

Ferrari find new way to blunder

If you thought Ferrari had exhausted the ways in which to throw away championship points through an error, think again.

This time it was Carlos Sainz on the receiving end of a horrific sequence of events at the Scuderia's pit box, dropping from third to sixth in one stop that set up a dreadful race for the Spaniard.

When the team called the driver in at the end of lap 14, Sainz was left on his jacks for 12.7 seconds as mechanics rushed to bring medium tyres to the F1-75.

Team principal Mattia Binotto acknowledged the situation was "a mess" and that the timing of the 'box call' was too late for the mechanics to react.

It was the latest amateurish showing from the great team that, when contrasted to Red Bull's execution, shows just why the gulf in championship points is so big.

Heads will surely roll if such failures continue.

Alpine overcome off-track distraction

Alpine has faced plenty of off-track distractions in the past month with the Oscar Piastri contract saga but it has been clear that despite the noise, on-track performances have remained strong.

Both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon qualified outside the top 10 at Zandvoort but superb tactics from the French manufacturer - including an early switch to the then-unfancied hard tyres - put its drivers in fighting position.

The result would see Alonso finish sixth, ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, and Ocon finish ninth - the points gap between the two teams stretched to 24.

The positives are that despite Alonso and Piastri jumping ship in a largely embarrassing month for the team, Alpine is still able to focus and provide the goods during a race weekend.

Fan behaviour a concern but F1 and Zandvoort impressive in reaction

The footage of a flare on the race track during qualifying prompted concern that the grand prix itself would face disruption.

The orange smoke adds to the atmosphere - there is no doubt. Wherever Verstappen's adoring support follows, there is sure to be a party-like feel even if a minority of idiots behaved wholly inappropriately in Austria earlier this season.

But with a metal can being thrown onto a live circuit, driver safety is then brought into question - a scenario not worth thinking about.

The foolish behaviour was quickly acted upon with the individual being ejected from the premises after being identified.

Kudos to F1 and the Zandvoort organisers for acting swiftly and coming down hard with the punishment. The deterrent of missing the action clearly helped avoid any repeats during the race, a fact we should be thankful for.

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