Verstappen says wrong Dutch GP strategy call “made it more fun” on his way to a 9th consecutive win

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Max Verstappen says his and Red Bull’s wrong call to stay out on slick tyres after the opening lap, when the rain was already falling, “made it more fun” for him on his way to securing a ninth consecutive race win in 2023, equalling Sebastian Vettel’s long-standing record from 2013.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

The Dutchman had a good start and maintained his lead comfortably, but a sudden downpour on the opening lap meant the track got very wet in a matter of seconds, and whilst his team-mate Sergio Perez stopped for intermediate tyres at the end of the first lap, Verstappen stayed out for an extra lap and ended up a massive 13.5 seconds back from the Mexican, who took the lead with a successful undercut.

However, the two-time world champion made quick progress to reduce the gap to less than four seconds by the time the track dried out enough for the slick tyres to be suitable to the conditions, and performed an undercut to comfortably take the lead back from his team-mate – and from there onwards he never looked like losing the race, despite the heavy rain and the red flag restart late on in the grand prix.

Speaking after the race, he explained that in the end the early wrong call made his race “more fun” as he had to catch and pass Perez (using the pit stops) and several other drivers to retake the race lead:

“Already on the grid it started raining. I thought, together also with the team, that it was gonna be like just a little downpour and maybe we could stay out on slicks, and unfortunately it didn’t. But this is probably more like a gamble, where sometimes it works out for you or not, and this time it didn’t.

“In the end, it made it more fun. There was definitely a race going on after that. I saw the gap was like 13 seconds or something, but then luckily within a few laps it was down to three seconds, because on the intermediates as well we had good pace.

“Once we made the stop again to go to the slick tyres, the car was behaving really well, I could look after my tyres well, push when I really needed to push and everything was very smooth.”

Having now equalled Sebastian Vettel’s all-time record of most consecutive grand prix victories, the championship leader says the ever-changing conditions “didn’t make it easy” for him, and showed how difficult it can be to reach such highs even with the best car on the grid:

“Today the weather didn’t make it easy for us, to make all the time the right calls, and I’m incredibly proud [to win at Zandvoort].

“It’s something I never thought was possible, to win nine [races] in a row, even when you have the best car on the grid, it’s always incredibly tough, and especially on a day like today, everything is basically against you.

“It’s easy to trip up, make a mistake, go off – but we didn’t, we stayed calm. To win a race like this today is definitely very rewarding, and of course being my home grand prix as well, with all the fans, makes it even better.”

Verstappen has now won 11 of the 13 races of the 2023 F1 season so far, but says he is not thinking about extending that record at the Italian GP in a week’s time, and instead will focus on enjoying the moment at Zandvoort and appreciating his massive home support:

“I already had goosebumps when they were playing the national anthem. And even with all the bad weather and the rain, the fans were still going at it, so [it is] an incredible atmosphere.

“I’ll think about it next week, [firstly] I’m going to enjoy this weekend,” he said when asked if he could surpass Vettel’s record at the Italian GP. “It’s always tough, the pressure is on to perform, and I’m very happy of course to win here.”

The Dutchman has now extended his championship lead to a whopping 138 points over his nearest rival and team-mate Sergio Perez, and looks set to clinch his third world title well before the final race of the season.