What To Watch For in the Dutch Grand Prix: Mercedes in the mix and more overtaking chances

From a three-way race to victory to McLaren looking to reclaim points in the race against Alpine, from Mick Schumacher chasing a top 10 to a unique DRS area, we’ve picked out some key areas to keep an eye on when the lights come on Zandvoort out…

1. The key opening lap

A week ago we highlighted that the initial start at Spa-Francorchamps was not the most important aspect of the opening lap, but the long resistance to Les Combes could prove crucial. Well, in Zandvoort, this fight may be decided sooner than that.

Read more: Verstappen beats Leclerc to Zandvoort pole position by 0.021sec

This is because on the Dutch circuit, overtaking is more difficult due to the lack of long straights, and there is little chance of slipping past another driver without the help of DRS.

So the key point of the opening lap will be the moment the lights go out and a rally takes place at turn 1 where the inside rider has the high ground but is more outside threat than usual due to lean in the opening corner.

But both cars can go through the first corner side by side and while it can go tight through the second corner, turn 3 will really clear up the position as the extreme lean may give one a better exit than the other Enter the upcoming complex to end the first sector.

2022 Dutch Grand Prix qualifying: Max Verstappen secures pole position again at his home Grand Prix

2. Mercedes mixed up

And it’s not just Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in the front row that are of interest, as the top three teams have all been very close so far this weekend.

Verstappen took pole position on the final lap of qualifying by just 0.021s to Carlos Sainz’s – but the two Mercedes drivers didn’t have a chance to finish them last attempt as Sergio Perez skidded in the final corner and forced them to abort.

Read more: Hamilton and Russell hope to race Ferrari and Red Bull on Sunday after ‘unfortunate’ qualifying finish at Zandvoort

Lewis Hamilton feels he has a chance at the front, but he will be fourth, still mixed with Ferrari and Red Bull given the strong pace of play the Silver Arrows have shown so far this weekend.

The aforementioned start is particularly important to Mercedes’ hopes, but with this race looking like a close link between one- and two-stop strategies, Hamilton and team-mate George Russell (sixth) may There will be movement forward.

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Hamilton thinks he has a chance of qualifying for the front row

3. Norris vs Alps

Behind Russell is Lando Norris’ leader McLaren, as both McLaren and Mercedes enjoyed a better race than their last race at Spa-Francorchamps. Competitive weekend.

It was a particularly important result for Norris as both Alpine drivers failed to make it into Q3 and started 12th and 13th respectively.

READ MORE: Norris wants ‘lonely’ Dutch GP after qualifying P7 as Ricciardo reveals reason for Q1 exit

With Daniel Ricciardo struggling at Zandvoort and the Australian dropping out in the first quarter, most of the expectations fell on Norris as he tries to make up for McLaren in the constructors’ title race A 20-point gap with Alpine.

The start was also crucial to Norris’ hopes, as he was ahead of Mick Schumacher, Yuki Kakuda and Lance Stroll – three cars he hoped would measure up in race distance, but the truth Proving they’d be hard-pressed to overtake if he loses any position when the lights go out.

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Norris will lead McLaren in Alpine points in Sunday’s race

4. Mick Schumacher in the top eight

While Norris is driving for McLaren, which has just finalized its 2023 driver line-up, alongside him in the fourth row is a man facing an uncertain future.

Mick Schumacher had to face a tough new season in his rookie season at Haas last year, but after a challenging opening 2022, his potential flashed, as he was in the 2020s earlier this summer. Silverstone and Austria got his first points. More points have yet to be scored as Haas has gone three straight races without scoring, while Schumacher sees his place in the team questioned after the end of the year.

WATCH: Schumacher admits entering Q3 at Zandvoort was ‘unexpected’

So against this backdrop, the 2020 Formula 2 champion’s stellar performance secured a top-eight starting spot, comfortably overtaking qualifying teammate Kevin Magnussen in 18th.

If Schumacher can turn that starting point into points for the third time in his Formula 1 career, he may increase his chances of convincing Haas to continue working with him for a third year, as Gunther Steiner and Geely En Haas is weighing their options on the market for the next few weeks.

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Schumacher’s third-quarter performance comes just in time as he faces questions about his future at Haas

5. Main DRS area

The Zandvoort circuit is a driver favourite because its undulating layout and many sloping corners provide a unique challenge on the F1 calendar. But if there’s one area for improvement after returning to the race last year, it’s the possibility of overtaking.

The lack of long straights makes it hard to try to move, but with the 2022 car making it easier to follow and specific changes made to one of the DRS areas, there are high hopes for this year.

Unlike the conventional approach of setting DRS zones only on straight sections (or sections with minimal directional changes), Zandvoort’s highly banked final corner offers drivers the potential to open DRS ahead of that right-hander, while the bank provides additional Grip makes up for the loss of downforce.

Highlights: Watch Zandvoort qualifying, Verstappen narrowly beats Leclerc

This means a longer DRS area than last year’s race, which drivers believe should help create a more exciting race.

“I think the cars should follow better compared to last year, and with a few hundred meters of extra DRS it will definitely be easier than last year,” said Carlos Sainz. “It’s still not easy because it’s still a very difficult track to pass, but hopefully it won’t be as tough as it was last year.”

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