Formula 1

“The Dutch Grand Prix was something special”

September 7, 2021January 5th, 2022

Mika Häkkinen shares his thoughts on the recent Dutch GP.

It was brilliant to be able to attend the Dutch Grand Prix and witness the amazing support that the local fans gave to their hero Max Verstappen. I had a great weekend and it was so great to see so many people having fun.

The organisers have done a fantastic job to get Zandvoort rebuilt to current F1 standards. They had a great return on their investment with Max taking pole position, dominating the race and regaining the lead in the World Championship for Drivers.

He drove the perfect weekend and the Dutch fans went crazy! It was great to see and hear.

Zandvoort is a short track but the designers have done an excellent job to create something that is demanding to drive. There is no time to relax during the lap and many of the drivers enjoyed the challenge. Overtaking was difficult but Sergio Perez showed that it was possible. I am sure the FIA, F1 and Zandvoort will look at the data and decide whether they can extend the DRS zones next year.

I heard this morning that the race attracted almost 90% of the Dutch TV audience – an amazing number, and it shows just how much Max is exciting the wider sports fans in his home country. A Dutch driver on the top step of the podium at the Dutch Grand Prix was something special.

We know the Red Bull-Honda is the quickest package this season. Although the accidents in Silverstone and Budapest damaged Max’s season and allowed Lewis Hamilton to lead the World Championship at the start of the summer holiday, what we saw in Zandvoort shows that Max continues to have the best car under him.

What is also clear is that he has the confidence and focus necessary to win this World Championship. There was a lot of pressure on him at the weekend – and it is amazing to remember he is still only 23 years old – but he did not let anything distract him.

Mercedes put up a good fight. Lewis and Valtteri Bottas did everything they could to find a strategy that would put them ahead of Max. Lewis tried the undercut, but that did not work as Max was too quick and Lewis’s first stop a little slow, while Valtteri ran long in an effort to make a one-stop work. Ultimately there was nothing that they could do to catch the Red Bull.

One thing which Red Bull need to work on is helping Sergio Perez to support Max more closely because Mercedes will always have Lewis and Valtteri working well together. In such a close championship fight, having a strong team-mate is going to be critical to securing victory.

Valtteri has really proven to be a first class team-mate to Lewis, but I am so happy to see him accept a multi-year agreement to join Alfa Romeo Racing from 2022 onwards. With nine Grands Prix wins, 17 pole positions and an amazing 63 podium finishes he has been a strong part of Mercedes, the team winning the World Championship for Constructors every season. Being team-mate to Lewis is never easy, but Valtteri has pushed hard, never given up and given the team a positive atmosphere.

At Alfa Romeo Racing he has the opportunity to use his enormous experience to help them develop. With a completely new set of technical regulations in 2022, coming on top of the budget cap which started this year, I know that team boss Frederic Vasseur is determined to achieve some big targets in the future. Valtteri is the perfect guy to help them do that, and it’s nice to see the team continue it’s passion for having Finnish drivers!

I was sorry to see Kimi Raikkonen test positive for Covid and miss the race on the same weekend that he announced his retirement from F1 at the end of the season. Kimi has achieved a huge amount over the last twenty years, including not only winning the World Championship but also building a big fanbase around the world.

He has been one of the superstar drivers for two decades. His exit from the sport means that only Lewis, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel remain as World Champions.

However, unless Mercedes can find some extra speed, I think Max might soon join that list!

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