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Verstappen romps home in Dutch GP
Red Bull driver reclaims lead, Hamilton second
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen races at the Zandvoort circuit during the Netherlands' Formula One Grand Prix in Zandvoort on September 5, 2021. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen races at the Zandvoort circuit during the Netherlands' Formula One Grand Prix in Zandvoort on September 5, 2021. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)

Zandvoort, Netherlands: Red Bull's Max Verstappen triumphed in his home Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to take over at the top of the Formula One drivers' standings again.

Verstappen led from pole for his seventh win this season as a Mercedes bid to shake up the race by changing tyre-stop strategy failed to pay off as previous championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished second.

Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of Pierre Gasly in an AlphaTauri and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was roared on by 70,000 fans - mostly wearing orange and including the king - in the first Dutch Formula One Grand Prix since1985, held on the Zandvoort track with its several high-banked turns on the North Sea dunes.

"As you can hear, it's incredible," said Verstappen, who now leads Hamilton by three points after 13 races.

"Obviously the expectations were high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil that, but I'm just so happy to win here, to take the lead in the championship as well. It's just an amazing day. The whole crowd."

Verstappen started well, pulling quickly away from Hamilton following the first corner on the tight and undulating track where overtaking is difficult.

Defending champion Hamilton and Mercedes quickly realised the race was done unless they tried something different and decided to switch to the two-stop strategy in a bid to force an undercut.

The Briton came in after 21 laps for new tyres so Verstappen covered that a lap later, with Red Bull's mechanics performing a speedier stop and the Dutchman emerging ahead of Hamilton.

Verstappen, who also won a farcical Belgian Grand Prix last weekend over two laps, then had Bottas in front of him but knew the Finn would soon have to pit.

Bottas stayed out to try to hold Verstappen up and let Hamilton get closer, but the 23-year-old easily got past the Mercedes man after 31laps.

Hamilton then immediately passed the Finn, whose days at Mercedes areset to soon be over with Williams' George Russell poised to partner Hamilton next year.

Mercedes' only realistic hope then was on the second stop or a safety car phase to bunch the pack.

But there were none of the crashes seen in qualifying on the challenging circuit and the second set of tyre stops made no difference, despite Hamilton getting as close as 1.5 seconds to his rival.

Verstappen then motored home to a memorable victory, prompting wild scenes from his fans in the stands with fireworks and orange flares.

Hamilton was worried his second set of tyres would not last but in the end he stopped a third time only to get the extra point for fastest lap.

This came after team-mate Bottas had stolen it from him late on, despite being told twice by the team to slow down, in another clear sign of tension between Mercedes and the Finn.

"What a race, what a crowd," said Hamilton. "Honestly it's been an amazing weekend. Max did a great job, congratulations to him.

"I gave it absolutely everything today, flat-out. I pushed as hard as I could. But they were just too quick for us."

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen missed this weekend's racing in Zandvoort after testing positive for coronavirus.

Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica took his place and finished15th.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who finished eighth, and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi had to start from the pit lane after changing elements of their car overnight.

Perez only qualified in 16th so it made little difference. It also meant he was no use to Verstappen in attempting to fend off Hamilton but the Mexican still did well to make his way up the field.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel was 13th having qualified only 17th. -- dpa

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