This year Formula 1 returned to the dunes of Zandvoort. Like he did last year, Max Verstappen won the 2022 Dutch GP from pole position. Despite Charles Leclerc and both Mercedes drivers challenging him for the win, Max was simply unstoppable. He charged to take 2 wins in the Netherlands in a row. And unlike last year, he really had to fight for the win. The battle for the race win was certainly more entertaining than it was at the 2022 Belgian GP. In Belgium, Max just flew away with the win!
The fight for the win we were watching got more and more entertaining as the race progresses. It wasn’t just about raw pace, but it was also about long-term strategy. That’s why this race was an all-rounder; it entertained fans like me who understand the strategic part of F1. But it also entertained fans who simply just love the raw racing.
The Orange Army assembled in full force to support their home hero, Max Verstappen. The Dutch Grand Prix this year was much awaited after its return to Formula 1 last year. It was originally scheduled to take place in 2020. However, the Dutch GP Sporting Director announced that they were postponing its return to 2021. While fans were upset at the time. However, when we witnessed the race’s return in 2021, we realised it was worth the wait. The Dutch GP simply had to return with the stands filled with fans. That electric atmosphere at the 2021 Dutch GP was very unique, and we witnessed the same electric atmosphere at the 2022 Dutch GP.
However, last year, things got a little out of hand with the fans. The Sea of Orange didn’t just stay in the stands, but they also infiltrated the track in the form of flares. Last year the Circuit security didn’t stop people from bringing flares because none of the race organisers anticipated that there would be so many flares. The flares don’t only restrict the drivers’ vision, but they are also a safety hazard if a car runs over them.
That could cause damage to the car. On top of that, the smoke from the flares is foul-smelling. While the security at the circuit tried to stop flares from entering the stands, people managed to sneak them in and throw them on the track. The organisers made sure all attendees knew that security would remove them from the circuit if they threw flares, but people did it anyways. It caused Red Flags throughout qualifying and practice. While it was much better than last year’s flares situation, it didn’t make things easy at all.
In this race review, we’re going to look at defining aspects of the race. During the race, retirements from Yuki Tsunoda and Valtteri Bottas caused a VSC and an SC respectively. Tsunoda’s retirement caused a lot of conspiracies and hate to spread through social media, which we will discuss and disprove in this post. Mercedes and Ferrari both made mistakes during this race that cost them points and the race win. I am going to explain what these complex and costly mistakes were.
The Tsunoda Conspiracy
On Lap 47 of the 2022 Dutch GP, Yuki Tsunoda retired from the race. His retirement caused a Virtual Safety Car that made a major difference in the outcome of the race. Since Tsunoda races for AlphaTauri and AlphaTauri is Red Bull’s sister team, toxic F1 fans started making hateful comments and abusing AlphaTauri and Hannah Schmitz online. Hannah Schmitz is the Red Bull Racing Strategy Head. A tweet from AlphaTauri explains what’s been going on. It truly is disheartening.
The tweet also somewhat explains why Yuki Tsunoda stopped on track when he had the chance to retire in the pitlane and avoid a VSC. On Lap 44, Tsunoda pulled off to the side and stopped the car, saying the tires weren’t fitted. He had just completed a pitstop. However, the team told him that there was nothing wrong and that he could continue racing. When he stopped the car, he must’ve undone the seatbelt, thinking that he was retiring from the race.
But when the team told him to keep going, he must’ve put the seatbelts back on again. Just to make sure that the seatbelts were safely done, AlphaTauri called Tsunoda into the pits again. They gave him a set of used softs, while a couple of mechanics fixed the seatbelts in the cockpit. While this could be the end of the story, unfortunately, it was not. After coming out of the pits, Tsunoda reported that something was still wrong. Then the team told him to pull over and retire the car. It was quite bizarre.
The VSC allowed Verstappen to make a pitstop that wouldn’t cost him as much time, and that protected him from losing to Mercedes and their strong one-stop strategy. People thought that Red Bull and AlphaTauri conspired in order to guarantee that Max wins at Zandvoort. If a single shred of evidence is found pointing towards foul play or cheating, a team is removed from the championship for that year, and the team is fined extremely heavily. Red Bull wouldn’t risk so much just for one race win. Besides, these conspiracies, and I hate to say this, are quite stupid.
I saw a theory online that Alphatauri told the mechanics doing Tsunoda’s seatbelts to secretly tell him to stop the car on track. It’s utterly ridiculous. Things happen in F1; sometimes issues can be bizarre and unexpected. But just because AlphaTauri is Red Bull’s sister team, doesn’t mean either of them would cheat or do things on purpose in order to benefit the other.
A Rare Mercedes Mess-Up
Mercedes are often known for having the best strategists, and for using bold strategies to win races that many didn’t think they would win. An example of a fantastic Mercedes strategy play that comes to my mind is the 2021 Spanish GP. That race was one of the many races that were a major victory for the Mercedes strategy team.
Yet the 2022 Dutch GP was a rare failure for Mercedes and their strategists. I don’t remember seeing Mercedes make a mistake in their strategy, because it doesn’t happen very often. In fact, for well over half of the race, it looked like Mercedes were going to pull off a strategic masterclass. Both the Mercedes drivers started on the medium tires, as compared to Verstappen starting on the softs. This allowed Mercedes to keep their options open on the strategy front. And they decided to go for a 1-stop strategy.
The 1-stop can be very powerful if executed well. The Mercs had to compromise raw pace to allow their tires to last long, but at the same time, they had to ensure that they didn’t lose too much pace. If they lost too much pace, then despite doing one less pitstop, Verstappen would be fast enough to maintain the lead of the race. And up until Lap 47, things were looking good for Mercedes. Both Mercedes and Verstappen had completed one pitstop, but Verstappen’s tires were wearing out, allowing Mercedes to close the gap. Both of the Mercedes drivers were less than 18 seconds behind Verstappen, and a driver loses 18-20 seconds when they pit at Zandvoort.
But Lap 47 is when the pendulum swung in Verstappen’s favour. That’s when Yuki Tsunoda retired, causing a Virtual Safety Car. I already elaborated on what happened earlier in this post. Tsunoda retiring allowed Verstappen to get a cheap pitstop. Since Verstappen pitted, Mercedes also pitted; they couldn’t run the risk of being sitting ducks for the rest of the race on fairly old hard tires. What nobody knew is that less than 10 laps later, a full course Safety Car would take place thanks to Bottas’ retirement.
In hindsight, if Mercedes kept their drivers out of the pitlane during the VSC, they could’ve pitted during the SC, which would leave them with fresh tires and an ideal track position. However, Mercedes had no way of knowing that Bottas’ engine would fail, so there was nothing else they could do during the VSC. When the Safety Car came around, Mercedes blundered. Instead of pitting for fresh softs like everybody else, they kept both drivers out and decided to keep track position. They honestly got lucky that George Russell took matters into his own hands and decided that he should pit for softs.
While it was surprising that Mercedes allowed him to make the decision, it’s a good thing they did, because he turned out to be right. Hamilton didn’t protest, because he trusted the team a lot more after winning 6 titles with them. And unfortunately, Mercedes’ mistake led to Hamilton’s downfall. That’s because ultimately, Mercedes as a team should’ve pitted Hamilton. There’s one major issue with this situation. And that’s the fact that even if Mercedes pitted Hamilton, beating Verstappen would’ve been extremely difficult.
Mercedes would’ve given up track position and wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the rapid Red Bull. And since they didn’t pit him, Hamilton didn’t just lose the lead to Verstappen. He also lost positions to Russell and Leclerc, leaving him to finish P4. And since he was much slower on those cold mediums, Hamilton ended up holding Russell up as well. The 2022 Dutch GP like a Mercedes masterclass, but turned out to be a disasterclass.
Another Ferrari Fumble
This was another annihilation for Ferrari. Unfortunately, they just weren’t a match for Verstappen. They couldn’t compete with him for multiple reasons. First of all, a lack of raw pace. Verstappen is incredibly fast around the Zandvoort Circuit, and on top of that, Red Bull nailed his setup. That Red Bull’s straight-line speed combined with skilful driving from the reigning champion left Ferrari in the dust. Leclerc and Verstappen had a fairly similar strategy, so it’s not like Ferrari’s strategy team made any major mistakes. It’s just that Verstappen constantly managed to out-pace Leclerc.
Despite that Leclerc could’ve finished in 2nd place. However, the Mercedes team managed to get both of their drivers ahead of Leclerc with a smart 1-stop strategy. Leclerc and Ferrari simply didn’t have the pace to prevent the Mercs from succeeding with this strategy. The situation could’ve been different if Sainz was also part of the game. However, Ferrari absolutely demolished Sainz’s chances and hopes.
I feel bad for Carlos after the events of the 2022 Dutch GP. I can’t imagine how tough it would be for the team to ruin your race twice within the same race. The first instance happened on Lap 14 when Sainz came into the pits for his first stop. Sainz was in P3 and was switching from worn softs to a fresh set of mediums. And guess what? Ferrari. Weren’t. Ready. As Sainz came to a halt, mechanics were running to get the tires ready. Luckily, they got the tires there, and they switched the tires.
Well, they got 3 tires there. Sainz had to sit there, waiting for the mechanics to get the rear-left tire and then complete the pitstop. The Spanish driver was stationary for a total of 12.7 seconds, which is over 10 seconds more than he should be. And to rub salt in the wound, Perez ran over one of Ferrari’s wheel guns. Perez, who was behind Sainz, came into the pits at the same time as Sainz. He had a smooth pitstop thanks to Red Bull’s top-notch pit crew.
However, as he exited the RB pit box, he ran over a Ferrari wheel gun! Not only did Ferrari lose 10 seconds, but they also had a broken wheel gun! It’s incredibly disappointing how a member of a Formula 1 pit crew has just left the wheel gun there like that. This pitstop was a real shocker, a facepalm moment. Sainz might’ve even been penalised for entering the Ferrari pit box unsafely since his rear right wheel
touched one of Red Bull’s wheel gun’s air hoses. However, since the Zandvoort pitlane is unusually tight and short, the stewards didn’t penalise Sainz for that. They did, however, penalise Sainz for something else.
Ferrar once again messed up one of Sainz’s pitstops. On Lap 57, when Sainz pitted, Ferrari changed the tires smoothly. It was the release from the pit box that was disastrous. The FIA decision document states that multiple angles of video evidence showed that Sainz’s car “was released from the pit stop position into the path of ALO [Alonso] who had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.”
This made Sainz’s release legally an unsafe release, meaning he received a 5-second time penalty. Because of the time lost in the first stop combined with a lack of pace, Sainz had a midfield pack behind him. Because of that penalty, he finished the race in P8. He had the chance to score a podium, but Ferrari let it slip through their hands. Ferrari really need to pull themselves together. Formula 1’s oldest and most prestigious team can’t be clowning around like this.
The 2022 Dutch GP was another fantastic race. Max Verstappen’s got an ever-tighter grip on the championship trophy, and many think that it’ll get tighter in Italy. The Italian GP will always hold a special place in my heart. And it’s not just because it’s Ferrari’s home Grand Prix. It’s because I visited the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza! Ahead of the 2022 Italian GP, I will publish a video about my visit to Monza!