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Verstappen Home Doubleheader: Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix

Sports

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Image by Getty Images

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This Labor Day weekend will feature the 15th race of the 2022 Formula 1 season, the Dutch Grand Prix.

Originally running from 1950 to 1985, the Dutch Grand Prix was once a staple on the Formula 1 circuit but fell out of favor with drivers who refused to race there due to aging facilities and track conditions.

The wild popularity of current World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen, the “Flying Dutchman,” prompted a return to the track during the 2020 season.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race was canceled for that season. It did finally return in 2021, though, and home favorite Verstappen took pole position and eventually the checkered flag on race day.

The race comes on the heels of the Belgian Grand Prix just one week earlier in what some are calling a Verstappen Home Doubleheader. Verstappen plowed through the field to finish first after beginning in 14th due to grid penalties for taking a new power unit.

He now leads the 2022 drivers championship by a daunting 93 points over his closest competitor, Red Bull teammate Sergio “Checo” Perez.

Calling the track a “rollercoaster ride,” Pirelli Motorsport director Mario Isola has nominated the three hardest compounds in their Formula 1 tire range for use during the race. This marks only the fourth time the hardest compounds have been selected by Pirelli for a race in 2022, after Bahrain, Spain, and Great Britain.

Isola noted that the tire selection “should make overtaking easier on a track where it was hard to pass last year” and further stated that “the majority of drivers stopped just once to maintain track position, but this time there could be more of a focus on the softer compounds – which might lead to more two-stoppers and drivers pushing even harder.”

Another issue the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which licenses and sanctions Formula 1 racing, is sorting out in advance of Sunday’s race is the placement of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones, which allow cars to increase speed if they are within one second of the car in front of them.

Due to safety concerns in 2021, the second DRS zone was shortened, but observers felt that this decision decreased the action on the track too significantly.

The FIA will test a full-length DRS zone in Free Practice 1 (FP1) on Friday and review the data and feedback from the teams.

Remarking on this approach, FIA single-seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis said, “If we feel that there is any, even a remote, risk for the safety, then clearly we would have to take action and change it after FP1.”

Verstappen is the current odds favorite to win the Grand Prix (-175), followed by Ferrari rivals Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz (+350 and +900, respectively).

Practice sessions begin Friday while qualifying kicks off at 2 p.m. CST on Saturday, September 2.

The Dutch Grand Prix begins Sunday, September 4, at 8 a.m. CST.

PIT STOPS:

Lewis Hamilton fears that he may have damaged his engine in his collision with former teammate Fernando Alonso last week. If he needs to replace parts or the entire power unit, this would mean grid place penalties for the seven-time world champ.

If Red Bull continues its dominance and wins both titles in 2022, this would mark the second time in the last 13 years that power unit provider Honda has exited Formula 1 only to see the team they were partnered with go on to win both titles in the following season.

Mick Schumacher is no longer a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy with the conclusion of his contract after this season, freeing him up to seek a seat of his choosing.

If the rumors are true that the younger Schumacher is set to be released by Haas after three years with the team, this would prove to be good news. Antonio Giovinazzi’s name is the most floated current to take Schumacher’s seat at Haas for the 2023 season.

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