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Max Verstappen wins F1 Dutch Grand Prix to delight of home crowd | Formula One

This season had been a trying old slog for Lewis Hamilton at best and his frustration and disappointment at the Sisyphean task of repeatedly wrangling a recalcitrant Mercedes has been palpable. At the Dutch Grand Prix his bouldering, his burden became just too heavy as his team left him floundering, impotent and indeed furious as his race fell apart.

Max Verstappen won in Zandvoort and this much at least had been expected — certainly by the 105,000 orange-clad fans who roared their approval at every lap. Yet it had not quite been the celebratory jaunt from pole to flag they had anticipated and for the first time this season it had been Mercedes and Hamilton who had been in with a genuine shot of their first win of the season.

It was not to be as Verstappen made another major step towards securing his second title. He now leads Charles Leclerc and Sergio Pérez by 109 points, with seven races remaining and 190 points on the table. Yet as the orange plumes of smoke dissipated in the wind over Zandvoort it was Hamilton’s reaction to what had transpired that had caught the attention.

Having been leading the race, he suffered a late strategy call by Mercedes that cost him not only a chance to fight Verstappen for victory but also a podium place. He finished fourth, behind his teammate, George Russell, who was second and Ferrari’s Leclerc who was third. What was most noticeable as these tense moments played out and Hamilton saw his chances of him slipping away was the unusual virulence of his reaction.

The seven-times champion has become so unflappable, so preternaturally composed as he has matured as a driver that for him to lose it is striking indeed. He barely ever uses bad language at all, preferring the politer “fricking” to its altogether blunter cousin of him. Yet it was the latter with which he blasted the team over the radio.

Their decision to leave him out while pitting Russell, Red Bull pitted Verstappen and Ferrari Leclerc, all for fresh tires under a late safety car left him a sitting duck. He knew he was done for and made no bones about it.

“That was the biggest fuck up,” he said. As the race restarted Verstappen breezed past. Russell followed shortly afterwards, the pair nearly touching as Hamilton’s reluctance to yield a place to his teammate was manifest. Finally, then, came the ignominy of succumbing to Leclerc, whom he had had the beating of in pace and strategy across the race.

The reaction over team radio was both distinct and unusually explicit. “I can’t believe you guys fucking screwed me,” Hamilton said. “I can’t tell you how pissed I am.”

To be fair he did not need to tell them. It was plain for all to see. While Verstappen broke home had Hamilton’s seeing been transferable to a few extra horsepower he might yet have come back at him. Instead it boiled off in vain into the ether.

His team, having been on the receiving end of some industrial strength verbals, doubtless sensed the disquiet of their seven-times champion. The race engineer, Peter Bonnington, apologised, as did the team principal, Toto Wolff.

“Sorry it didn’t work out, we took a risk and it didn’t work out,” he said. “Let’s discuss it in the office.”

Over 90 minutes after the finish Hamilton spoke to the media having had time to calm down and regain his equilibrium. Ever the diplomat he apologized for his comments on him, made he said in the heat of the moment and insisted he remained fully confident in his team.

He will reset, as will they, but it was clear in a season when a win has been an almost forlorn hope to have even a sniff of a chance snatched away was a bitter pill indeed. It was made more so as, until those final moments, Mercedes had played a blinder to put him in real contention against the faster Red Bulls and Ferraris.

Mercedes had started on the slower medium tire, in contrast to their rivals who opened on the soft rubber. Intending to go long they did so and then switched both Hamilton and Russell to the hard tire to one-stop and make it to the flag. This was a risk but it proved inspired, the hard tire was quicker than expected and Hamilton made the most of it. I believed he was in the fight for the win.

As the other teams pitted again it consolidated Mercedes’ position in second and third behind Verstappen, who still had to stop again and would have to chase Russell and Hamilton and pass them for the win.

At which point Hamilton and Mercedes might have been daring to dream until it fell apart. First a VSC allowed Verstappen a free stop, minimizing his time lost. Yet the game was still on, only for the decisive safety car on lap 56.

Verstappen immediately took fresh tires but Mercedes pitted only Russell not Hamilton, hoping his track position in the lead would make the difference but, with older and slower rubber, Hamilton was left powerless. It had been a gamble as Wolff conceded. “Every single day of my life, I’d rather risk everything for winning the race than cementing second and third,” he said.

It was cold comfort to Hamilton for whom the dice had fallen decidedly the wrong way and leaves him only another mountain to climb at Monza next week.

Pérez was fifth for Red Bull, Fernando Alonso sixth for Alpine and Lando Norris seventh for McLaren. Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari, Esteban Ocon ninth for Alpine and Lance Stroll 10th for Aston Martin.

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