Max Verstappen overcame a tough challenge from Mercedes to claim victory at the Dutch Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton remained furious with the strategic Silver Arrows team.
Hamilton was in the lead on a safety car restart with 12 laps to go with George Russell in second.
But with the Mercedes allowing Russell to fight for soft tires for the run-in, Hamilton remained a sitting duck, losing to Verstappen, his team-mate and Charles Leclerc to miss out on the podium.
For the first time with both finishes, Leclerc beat Sainz on the road for the first time since Miami, after his teammate endured a miserable run. Although he came back fifth, a penalty for a dangerous exit would take him out of position.
But the day belonged to Verstappen, who clinched his second straight win in front of his beloved home crowd.
The Red Bull driver curbed Leclerc’s advances at the start before taking a comfortable lead on his new set of soft tires while behind Hamilton narrowly avoided race-damaging contact with Sainz at the first corner.
The opening stint settled into a void around the vast Zandvoort layout with Verstappen entering the top 10 of F1’s list for all-time laps led and Red Bull topping the 5,000 laps led mark.
Sainz and Perez pulled the trigger early with one pit stop each on lap 14, with a slow pit stop hurting the Spaniard’s race and dropping him from third to sixth.
Leclerc didn’t have such a problem when he pitted three laps later and neither did Verstappen, but when the two drivers returned to the circuit, the two Mercedes drivers were in a one-two position for the first times this season.
While Ferrari had seemingly found every way to throw away position and points on the track this season, the Scuderia have discovered a new direction with Sainz.
The Spaniard was called to the pits from third on the road but on arriving at his pit no tires were present for the rear of his car.
This left him stationary for over 12.7 seconds, costing him three positions in the pecking order.
In the chaos, a tire gun was left in the way of Perez, who smashed the equipment as he exited his own stop. With the incident to be investigated after the race, Ferrari will likely face a financial penalty.
Mattia Binotto called the situation a “mess”, with an autopsy presumably to come in Maranello.
Bizzare Tsunoda injures Hamilton’s charge
Verstappen was forced to pass Russell, who had not stopped at the time, on the circuit, but Hamilton stopped on lap 29 to prevent an on-track battle between last season’s bitter rivals.
Russell took another two laps before switching to the hard tyres, and on the whitewall tires both W13s displayed supreme pace.
Hamilton had forced his way into Verstappen’s pit window despite losing three seconds as Sebastian Vettel blocked him on his pit exit – earning a five-second penalty – and appeared to have set up a arriving in the stands once the home hero had made his expected second save. .
But on lap 45, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda pulled to the side of the track with a suspected loose wheel after a pit stop.
After some time at a standstill and having loosened his seat belts in anticipation of retirement, the Japanese rider was informed that the wheels were fine and he could continue.
Tsunoda drove around the circuit at a slow pace, entered the pits and after fastening his seat belts and changing tires, he returned to the circuit.
Yet four corners later, the AT03 pulled back to the side of the track again, triggering a virtual safety car.
Verstappen pitted for fresh hards and Mercedes consolidated with mediums, joining in a comfortable second-and-third.
Bottas adds late drama
As the race seemed set for the break-in, Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo came to a stop on the inside of the first corner.
Sainz found himself at the mercy of the FIA stewards with an overtake on Ocon with the Finn locked out. Ironically, a dangerous exit past Frenchman Fernando Alonso’s team-mate would hand the Ferrari driver a five-second penalty.
With the safety car deployed, Verstappen chose soft tires to attack late in the race but conceded position to Hamilton and Russell.
A lap later Russell also switched to the softs, dividing Mercedes’ chances for the remainder of the race.
The neutralization ended with 12 laps to go and Verstappen took advantage of Red Bull’s superior straight-line speed to make the move even before the first corner.
Sainz got around Perez at the first opportunity to take fifth although his earlier misdeeds cost him his position.
Russell had so much speed on the softs that he slammed his way through, almost colliding on the straight.
Hamilton fell again as Leclerc stepped onto the podium, with the seven-time champion launching into a swear-laden rant over the team radio.
Sainz was forced to hold Perez in his attempts to hold on to a points finish, but pushed Perez off the track at the first corner.
The Mexican edged out Alonso, who made the most of Alpine’s clever strategy, and Lando Norris who was on course for a top-six finish before safety car interventions undermined his own tire tactics .
Esteban Ocon capped off a great day for Alpine in ninth, just behind Sainz after the penalty was applied to the Ferrari driver.
Lance Stroll continued his strong weekend with a point in 10th after moving up two places on lap one with a stunning start.
Pierre Gasly finished 11th for AlphaTauri ahead of Alex Albon’s Williams. Mick Schumacher dropped out of the points race through no fault of his own after two slow pit stops, although a battle with Vettel proved he had the know-how to stay in F1.
Vettel would overcome his penalty to finish 14th with Kevin Magnussen’s second Haas trailing – the Dane lucky to finish after hitting the barriers on lap two.
Zhou Guanyu looked racy but had too much to do to progress through the field, while Daniel Ricciardo’s lackluster weekend ended 17th.
Nicholas Latifi completed the field.