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Formula 1: A nation expects and Verstappen duly delivers

Formula 1: A nation expects and Verstappen duly delivers

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the race with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton finishing second and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas finishing third. (Photo: Pool via REUTERS/Francisco Seco)

Max Verstappen made light of the burden of expectation and delivered with speed and style on Sunday as he became the first Dutch driver to win his home Formula One grand prix.

The 23-year-old Red Bull driver triggered scenes in a 70,000-strong crowd already in full party mode after starting on pole position and taking the chequered flag with all but the two Mercedes drivers lapped.

The revival of the race at Zandvoort after a 36-year absence owed everything to Verstappen's surging popularity and success, the Dutchman the first championship contender the country has produced.

The man who started the hype rolling as Formula One's youngest ever driver (at 17) was already the youngest points scorer (17), podium finisher (18) and race winner (18).

On Sunday he joined a roster of greats that includes champions Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost as winners in the Netherlands.

Organisers had said before the event that they could have sold a million tickets, far beyond capacity and COVID-19 restrictions, and those who did get in were there for a Verstappen victory.

No pressure, then.

"It is just incredible, because the expectations were very high going into the weekend and it's never easy to fulfil," he said after stepping out of the car, with the Dutch royal family in attendance.

"I've been always very focused," he explained later when asked how he had managed to stay calm amid the general madness.

"I know I have to focus on the driving and that has been quite straightforward but of course naturally there are more distractions, especially when you are on the grid or drive out and there’s more of a crowd.

"But I think we are professional enough to just focus on our job once we are in the car."

Victory sent Verstappen three points clear of seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton in the standings and he will be hard to overhaul with nine rounds remaining.

"It's been a really positive week," he said, with some understatement, as fans continued to chant his name in the stands.

"I think they also know that I always do my best and you need a car to be able to win a race. We did, we had a very good car and we pulled it off as a team. It was a real team effort today."

Verstappen said it had all been 'simply lovely', a catchphrase heard increasingly often from him as he adds to the pile of poles and wins.

Source: Reuters

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