ZANDVOORT, Netherlands, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Runaway Formula One leader Max Verstappen celebrated a record-equalling ninth successive victory after winning a rain-hit and red-flagged Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday for the third year in a row.
The Red Bull driver’s home triumph from pole position at a soggy Zandvoort equalled now-retired four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel’s 2013 run of success with the same team.
It was Red Bull’s 14th consecutive triumph and 13th of the season, with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza following next weekend.
Rain brought chaos at the end of lap one, with a further dry period followed by a downpour that swept in from the North Sea to halt proceedings for 40 minutes on the 65th of 72 laps with cars skidding off.
Fernando Alonso put Aston Martin back on the podium with second place and a bonus point for fastest lap after the eventual rolling re-start behind the safety car led to a thrilling final chase at the seaside circuit.
Pierre Gasly was third, his first podium finish since he joined Renault-owned Alpine, as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez collected a five-second post-race penalty for speeding in the pit lane and dropped to fourth.
Verstappen now leads Perez, his closest rival, by a mighty 138 points with nine races remaining.
Red Bull lead Mercedes by 285 points with Aston Martin 40 points further back and 14 ahead of Ferrari.
“Incredible. They didn’t make it easy for us with the weather to make all the right calls,” said Verstappen as his army of fans prepared to party into the night.
“I already had goosebumps when they were playing the national anthem before the start,” added the 25-year-old, who chatted happily with the Dutch king and queen before the podium ceremonies.
“Even with all the bad weather, the rain, the fans are still going at it. So an incredible atmosphere.”
Verstappen’s 11th victory of the season, and 46th of his career, provided another big push towards clinching a third title well before the end of the season.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished fifth with Lewis Hamilton sixth for Mercedes and fellow-Briton Lando Norris seventh for McLaren.
Alex Albon collected more precious points for Williams in eighth, ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Esteban Ocon 10th for Alpine.
New Zealander Liam Lawson finished 13th, and ahead of team mate Yuki Tsunoda, on his Formula One debut as a replacement for injured Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri.
Lawson overtook Charles Leclerc on lap 41, before the Ferrari driver retired with a damaged floor, but also collected a 10-second penalty for impeding in the pitlane.
Verstappen led cleanly away at the start with Alonso seizing third place.
Only seven-times world champion Hamilton, starting a lowly 13th on the grid, lined up on medium tyres with everyone else on softs but all strategies were soon shredded as the skies opened.
Perez, seventh on the grid and everything to gain, pitted immediately for intermediates along with six others as the leaders stayed out.
The move paid off for him, but not for Ferrari who had Leclerc come in only to find no tyres ready and mechanics scurrying to bring them.
Verstappen came in a lap later but resumed well down the field and set about closing the gap.
He pitted again for dry tyres on lap 11 and took over at the front a lap later when Perez came in and discovered his team mate had successfully made the ‘undercut’ work.
The weather played havoc with others’ hopes, Mercedes’ George Russell plunging from third on the grid to 18th on lap 13 and complaining over the radio.
“I was forecast for a podium. How did we mess this up?” asked the Briton, who climbed back up the order but retired with a puncture after a clash with Norris at the re-start.
The safety car was deployed from lap 16 to 21 when U.S. rookie Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams at turn eight.
Verstappen appeared to be cruising to victory until the final deluge and the halt after Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou crashed heavily, without injury.
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond, Pritha Sarkar and Giles Elgood