By Carol M. Creasey
After the bizarre events of last week’s Belgian Grand Prix, Formula One moved onto Zandvoort for the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985.
Since the “race” at Spa, Sir Lewis Hamilton has been very vocal on what transpired there. He was particularly concerned for the fans who stood for hours in the rain, and he even suggested that Formula 1 return to the track at a later date, to give them a free race.
Being such a kind hearted person, he issued a statement to the fans who went to Spa, saying if they showed proof that they bought a ticket, he would give each and every one of them a surprise gift.
But like their hero, there are some very special Lewis Hamilton fans. Neil Steele, realising the Briton would not get a warm reception in the Netherlands, chartered a plane which set him back £1,600, to fly over the circuit with a banner which read “7xWDC Simply lovely Team LH”.
Lewis arrived at Zandvoort in bright orange showing the Dutch fans he too can wear it well. His response to all the negativity was to top Practice 1. It was a short practice as the red flag came out when Sebastian Vettel encountered engine problems. Second practice was much more difficult for him as after only a few laps he suffered a loss of power, and the team ordered him to stop immediately. This resulted in cheers from the orange army.
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But if there’s one reason why he has won seven championships, its resilience, so when interviewed afterwards he was upbeat, and full of praise for the energy of the Dutch fans. If only they realised that their boos spur him on. He ended up 11th and Valtteri Bottas was 4th. Surprisingly, Max Verstappen could only manage 5th. It was Ferrari on top, with Leclerc in P1 and Sainz in P2.
In Practice 3 Lewis was third, but his gap to Verstappen was seven tenths of a second, so there was much work to do in qualifying. With a sea of orange supporters to cheer him on, Verstappen went for pole, and although he put everything into it, Lewis ended up second by the barest of margins, just 0.038 behind Verstappen. Having missed a lot of practice, Toto Wolff stated that it was a mega result for Lewis, he outperformed the car. With Perez not making it out of Q1, and Valtteri in a solid third place, it was clear to see that it would make for an exciting race on Sunday.
The weather was fine for the race, and the support for Verstappen was an overwhelming sea of orange in the stands, with fumes of smoke billowing out onto the track. Many people thought that Lewis would attempt to get past Max on the first corner, but he was not able to attempt it, as the Dutch driver shot out like a rocked (as Lewis would later say). However Lewis managed to drive close to him to try and stay in touch. It seemed he was saving his move until later.
But as the race unfolded it was clear that the pace of the Red Bull was impossible for him to match without ruining his tyres. Mercedes had tried undercuts with pit stops, but that did not work. It was obvious the pace of the Red bull was impossible to match. He had to settle for second place, but had built up enough of a gap to pit again and get the fastest lap. Valtteri was third, which meant that Mercedes still led the Constructors’ Championship. However, Verstappen is now three points ahead of the Briton.
Afterwards Lewis congratulated Max on his home win, and also thanked the Dutch fans for their support, saying it was one of his favourite tracks to drive, and he can’t wait to return next year. He is very gracious in defeat, but it was obvious he fought very hard to try and keep up with Verstappen today. He was doing many fastest laps, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to attack the Dutch driver.
These two drivers are certainly giving the fans a great show at the moment. I am looking forward to seeing the pendulum swing back in Lewis’ favour, he certainly deserves it.
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