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The Highs and Lows of a Weekend in the Zandvoort Dunes

It’s fair to say our Dutch Grand Prix weekend resembled the sand dunes of the Zandvoort coast: up and down. It was a frustrating weekend for the Team. Missed opportunities meant we left the Netherlands with just eight points.

That was our worst result of the year so far, coming on a weekend when the pace of our car suggested we could have scored our best. F1 in a nutshell.

Those missed opportunities weren’t just on Sunday, either. We made our life more difficult in the race with a mixed result in qualifying. A strong lap in Q3 from George put him P3, but Lewis didn’t make it to the top 10 shootout and was 10 places further back.

Even on Saturday, while there were signs of promise and pace (even on a single lap, which is where we’ve typically struggled more), we didn’t get everything together. That put us on the back foot for the Grand Prix.

Sunday was further proof of that. At times we had one of the quickest (and for parts, the quickest) car on the track. The W14 was working well at Zandvoort and the recent upgrades we’d brought were producing lap time. The potential was there but we just didn’t maximise them across the full span of the race.

“I didn’t really know how the race was going to go,” Lewis said. “I sat there the night before racking my brain, where did we go wrong, how did we end up in this qualifying position and then working to figure out how I could progress.”

In among the chaos of the Dutch Grand Prix, it’s easy to forget George briefly led the race! Those first laps were mayhem and far from easy to navigate. Rain started to fall just as the race began. It’s fair to say we weren’t expecting it to persist for much more than five minutes.

We opted to stay out on slick tyres, hoping the shower would pass. Meanwhile, many other cars were already diving into the pits for intermediates. We clearly reacted to the weather too slowly and made the wrong call.

“It’s annoying because the car had great pace,” said Toto. “From then onwards, it was just about recovering as well as we could.”

That put both drivers at the back of the grid, with a mountain to climb. However, our drivers are pretty good at climbing mountains and both Lewis and George put on a strong recovery. With Lewis, we rolled the dice early with the soft tyre as the rain showers passed, with George doing the same the next lap.

Then came the Safety Car for Logan Sargeant’s Williams. We put George on Hard tyres, looking to go to the end. We were P13 with Lewis and P17 with George at this stage of the race. But with some dry and uninterrupted running after the restart, both drivers were able to use the pace of the car and move up the order.

By lap 60, the rain had returned. A slick double stack put both drivers onto the intermediate tyre. The showers soon turned torrential though and the race was red flagged with our drivers P6 and P8.

“We made the wrong decisions, and we paid the price for that,” Lewis said. “But I think it’s a really good example of when you fall or stumble, you just get back up and keep trying.”

On the restart, Lewis struggled to make a move on Carlos Sainz. The Ferrari driver struggled more in the corners, but his straight-line speed proved a useful defence. Meanwhile George made a move on Lando Norris but slight contact led to a punctured tyre. He slipped down the order as he limped back to the pits and his race was run from there.

“We could have been P6 without that contact with Lando,” George explained. “It was small contact, but that was game over with the puncture. It’s a shame as the car was really good.”

It was P6 and P17 at the finish. If our execution had been stronger, it could and perhaps should have been a weekend that yielded a podium. The pace of the car was there but we didn’t maximise that. A weekend of ‘what could have been’ in Zandvoort.

“I’d rather have a fast race car and a mediocre result, even if it hurts,” said Toto afterwards. “The situation is never one person or one department, it’s how we communicate together, between the driver, the pit wall, strategy, weather and then all of us taking decisions. That was sub-par from all of us, including me. But it’s good that it hurts. When it stings, it sticks.”

George added: “We were P17 and P19 at one point. There’s only so much you can do from that far back. A big missed opportunity as we could have been on the podium.”

But while we’ll debrief like we always do – thoroughly, openly and honestly – we’re also excited for a fresh opportunity to put things right in just a few days’ time at the Italian Grand Prix. Bring it on.