World Drivers Championship leader Max Verstappen continued his surge towards a third title in last Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
Picking up a ninth consecutive victory, the Dutchman equaled a record set by former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel in 2013.
However, unlike some of his drives this season, it was not plain sailing in Zandvoort, as Verstappen now closes on the crown at Monza.
Last weekend, a rain deluge on Lap 1 caused chaos with the grid all running on dry tyres.
During the average F1 season, it is rare that a circuit becomes soaked as quickly as Zandvoort did last Sunday afternoon.
As the lights went out, the heavens opened.
By half way around the opener, it was clear wet tyres would be required as the drivers scrambled to the pits.
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This handed the advantage to Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez. He would lead the early stages with more rain, safety cars and red flags all proving obstacles for the reigning champion.
Perez and Pierre Gasly were among the drivers that reaped the rewards from pitting instantly, while those that stayed out ultimately lost time.
Verstappen, who elected to stay out for an extra lap, dropped towards the lower end of the points positions. Worse off, Mercedes’ pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell found themselves bringing up the rear. Hamilton, at one stage, was in 20th and last place.
The eventual drying track allowed drivers that were caught out by the rain to make amends.
Verstappen was able to close in and undercut Perez for the lead while Hamilton would recover to sixth courtesy of some brave overtakes.
If there is a threat of rain for this weekend’s Italian GP, expect Verstappen’s advantage over the field to be greater still.
Ultimately, the pace of Verstappen and the Red Bull was again no match for the field last weekend, however, there were several outstanding performances across the grid.
Could form spill over into Monza?
The changeable conditions presented rare chances for midfield teams to claim a haul of points in last time out.
It was Gasly who capitalised on the ground made by his early pit stop to deliver a first podium since 2021.
Alpine will be encouraged that even in the dry conditions, the Frenchman was able to catch and pass Carlos Sainz’ Ferrari to eventually benefit from Perez’ own time penalty – claiming third place.
The upturn in pace comes at a perfect time for the Enstone-based team. Monza was the scene of Gasly’s maiden and only F1 win to date. Alpine will be looking to continue their momentum at a circuit their driver holds fond memories of.
Williams’ Alex Albon, meanwhile, continued his fine season with eighth place in the Netherlands.
Initially electing to stay out with dry tyres on a wet track, Albon would ultimately save himself a whole pit stop. He managed the dry tyres on a wet track brilliantly to ensure he had enough grip left when the conditions improved.
WIlliams are another outfit looking forward to the Italian GP and their car has consistently shown excellent top speed levels due to their low-drag design.
Expect Albon to qualify well on the Temple of Speed’s infamous straights and be difficult to overtake on race day.
McLaren and Mercedes falter
Rivals for second place in the constructors standings, McLaren and Mercedes, both had sub-par races in Zandvoort.
Poor strategy calls saw the duo elect to stay out on dry tyres in a hope that the rain would pass.
However, this saw both Lando Norris and Russell drop from second and third respectively to outside the points completely.
The pair would eventually come together in the race’s closing stages as a resulting puncture for Russell saw the Briton fail to finish for the third time this season.
Hamilton, last at one stage, managed to battle back to a sixth place finish with Norris seventh and Oscar Piastri ninth.
Although both teams will be keen to bounce back, Monza may not be the most likely of races to deliver a strong showing.
Italy could be a defining stop on this season’s calendar.
Click here for free bets for the Italian Grand Prix this weekend.
Verstappen is 7/4 to win, qualify on pole and set the fastest lap in Italy with William Hill.