Max Verstappen thrills home crowd to win Dutch GP over Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen Dutch win
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ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Wearing the Dutch national flag like a cape, Max Verstappen felt like royalty as he stood atop the podium after he thrilled his home crowd with a win.

He treated his fans — including King Willem-Alexander — to a superb victory Sunday at the Netherlands Grand Prix to wrestle back the lead from Lewis Hamilton, who finished second ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

“Incredible feeling, of course, to win in front of the fans, because the king was watching with the royal family,” Verstappen said. “Just an amazing day.”

After 13 races of a thrilling Formula One title fight, the Red Bull driver is three points ahead of Hamilton, who seeks a record eighth F1 title to move one ahead of Michael Schumacher and stand alone among F1 greats.

Verstappen is chasing his first F1 crown and will take some stopping, considering he leads Hamilton 7-4 for wins and 7-3 in pole positions.

The only thing missing from Verstappen’s 17th career win was a bonus point for fastest lap, which went to Hamilton.

Verstappen’s winning margin of 21 seconds over Hamilton was exaggerated because the British driver had to pit again to wrestle back that point from Bottas. A rare blip by Mercedes saw Bottas told to abort his bid for fastest lap, but it was too late and forced Hamilton to retrieve it.

After the race, a jubilant Verstappen grabbed a Dutch flag and lifted it high toward his adoring supporters as they celebrated together.

“The expectations were high and it’s never easy to fulfil that,” Verstappen said. “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.”

Verstappen’s devoted home fans turned the stands by the seaside town into an orange sea of bodies. Orange flares were lit, and feet were stamped as Verstappen turned to the crowd with a clenched fist after a clinical drive.

AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly placed fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Alpine driver Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen started from pole position for a season-leading seventh time, and sixth in the past seven races, courtesy of a brilliant qualifying session.

Hamilton and Bottas were just behind. Verstappen made a great start to pull clear away from them on the speedy 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) Zandvoort with its high-banking corners.