Max Verstappen ‘surprised’ Mercedes as Toto Wolff explains failure to win Dutch Grand Prix

F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar

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Max Verstappen’s decision to go on the hard tyre surprised Mercedes at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday, Toto Wolff has revealed. The 23-year-old continued his fine Formula One season with a straightforward victory. And it means Red Bull have now extended their lead at the top of the F1 Drivers’ Championship standings.

Amid a sea of orange, Verstappen finished top of the standings with Lewis Hamilton second and Valtteri Bottas coming third.

It was yet another fine day at the office for the 23-year-old, who has enjoyed a stunning season so far.

And, speaking afterwards, Mercedes chief Wolff admitted he was surprised at Verstappen’s decision to go on the hard tyre.

“We had a sniff of an undercut there but we didn’t time it right,” he told Sky Sports.

“We didn’t expect him [Verstappen] to go on the hard tyre but it is what it is.

“He [Bottas] was backing off, we could see on the timings that he was but we felt it necessary for James to tell him to back off on the radio.

“It’s so close and here Max was the quickest.

“Monza is going to be different and we feel that we are still in the run for the championship.”

Verstappen himself was delighted, admitting it had been an ‘incredible’ experience to win in front of his own fans.

“As you can hear already, it is incredible because the expectations were high going into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil that,” said the Red Bull star.

“But I’m so happy to win here and to take the lead as well in the championship.

“It’s just an amazing day with the whole crowd. Incredible.

“It’s definitely a very good day. The start was very important, I think we did that well.

“Of course, Mercedes tried to make it difficult for us but we countered them all the time really well.

“We can be pleased with the whole team performance today.”

Hamilton had to make do with second on the grid, with the Brit producing the fastest lap to finish second on the podium.

But the Brit was cheerful after the race, insisting it’s now ‘one of his favourite’ tracks to race on.

“What a race, what a crowd. It’s been an amazing weekend,” he said.

“Max did an incredible job so a huge congratulations to him.

“I gave it absolutely everything today, I pushed flat out all race but they were just too good.

“I’ve had an incredible weekend, a big thanks to the fans as they’ve been amazing.

“The last lap was one of the best parts of the race for me, this track is incredible on a single lap on low fuel – this is now one of my favourite tracks.”

Bottas finished third – but claimed the race was ‘pretty uneventful’ from his perspective.

“Unfortunately for me, it was pretty uneventful,” he said.

“Obviously I kept pushing. We tired a one-stop and a long first stint and tried to survive with the tyres until the end but in the end, we had quite a big gap behind me, so we just made a stop for safety, basically.

“We tried, but we didn’t quite have the pace today.

“I didn’t go for the fastest lap today. Lewis got it, so as a team, we got the points.

“The crowd have been really supportive, so thank you.”

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