Dutch GP: Max Verstappen set for home-race boost as Lewis Hamilton F1 title fight heads to Zandvoort

Lewis Hamilton is set for one of his biggest challenges of the season this weekend as he chases an ‘away win’ against Max Verstappen in front of a sure-to-be partisan crowd, as the Dutch Grand Prix at historic Zandvoort returns to Formula 1 after 36 years away.

The sport’s thrilling 2021 season got off to something of a false re-start following the summer break at last weekend’s Belgian GP, but that rain-sabotaged Sunday still managed to affect an already close title battle.

By being awarded 12.5 points to Hamilton’s 7.5 in the half-points, two-lap Spa ‘race’, Verstappen closed the gap to just three points ahead of a weekend he has been craving ever since his F1 debut.

The new Driver Championship standings

The new Constructor Championship standings

And the 23-year-old Dutchman is sure to be pushed on this weekend as he races in front of his orange army at home for the first time in his career.

The Dutch GP, the first since 1985, is live on Sky Sports F1.

“It will be special to have a race in the Netherlands in front of my home crowd but also as a driver it’s a good challenge to go to a new circuit and find the limit in an F1 car,” said Verstappen.

“It was amazing to see so many fans supporting us in Austria and Belgium and I hope we can put on a good show for everyone in the grandstands this weekend.”

It will be the first time Hamilton has taken on one of his major title rivals at their home race since the 2018 German GP against Sebastian Vettel; a day when Vettel crashed, and Hamilton miraculously won from 14th.

He has flourished in front of his own home fans every season at Silverstone, where this year Hamilton and Verstappen crashed. Since that race, Hamilton has had to deal with boos from fans in Hungary and Belgium.

Another feisty atmosphere awaits this weekend.

Steep banking and Max mania: Zandvoort explained

Max mania has indeed been a factor in the grandstands for much of the season, but will be even more so this weekend at Zandvoort – which has been the home of all 28 Dutch GPs. Situated near Amsterdam in the north of the country, it was always a favourite with the drivers, and should be even more so this year with one notable addition.

The last corner of the 2.6-mile circuit is now banked, meaning the track inclines around the final bend.

A rarity in F1 but a regular feature on American ‘oval’ tracks, the impressive fact about the Zandvoort banking is that it is actually twice as steep as the turns on the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The rest of the circuit is tight and technical, with gravel traps ready to ruin any driver’s race.

“It might be a little hard to overtake on but for single lap performance I think it’s going to be rewarding,” explained Verstappen. “The qualifying laps will be very quick there so any mistakes will be really costly.

“After the race was cancelled last year, this year will be even more special and of course it would be amazing to win on another home circuit in front of the Orange Army.”

Dutch GP live schedule on Sky Sports F1

5pm: The F1 Show Live (also streamed live on Sky Sports F1 YouTube)
6pm: Drivers’ Press Conference

9.05am: F3 Practice Live
10am: Dutch GP: Practice One Live (session starts 10.30am)
12.45pm: F3 Qualifying Live
1.45pm: Dutch GP: Practice Two Live (session starts 2pm)

9.25am: F3 Sprint Race 1 Live
10.45am: Dutch GP: Practice Three Live (session starts 11am)
1pm: Dutch GP: Qualifying build-up
4pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook Live
4.45pm: F3 Sprint Race 2 Live

9.35am: F3 Feature Race Live
12.30pm: Dutch GP Grand Prix Sunday Live
4pm: Dutch GP Chequered Flag Live
5pm: Ted’s Notebook Live
6pm: Dutch GP Highlights

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