Max Verstappen has made light of the burden of expectation to become the first Dutch driver to win his home Formula One grand prix.
The 23-year-old Red Bull driver triggered chaotic scenes in a 70,000-strong crowd already in full party mode after starting on pole position and taking the chequered flag.
He re-claimed the championship lead with the victory, earning a three point buffer over seven-time world champ Lewis Hamilton who came second on Sunday.
The revival of the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in 2021 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).
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.
“It is just incredible, because the expectations were very high going into the weekend and it’s never easy to fulfil,” Verstappen said after stepping out of the car, with the Dutch royal family in attendance.
“I’ve been always very focused.
“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.”
Verstappen will be hard to overhaul in the championship with nine rounds remaining.
The Red Bull driver finished 21 seconds ahead of Hamilton to ice his seventh win of the season and 17th of his career.
Hamilton softened the blow with a bonus point for fastest lap.
His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was third.
Verstappen’s winning margin was exaggerated because Hamilton had to pit again to wrestle back the bonus point from Bottas.
Mercedes told Bottas to abort his bid for fastest lap, but it was too late and forced Hamilton to retrieve it.
A jubilant Verstappen grabbed a Dutch flag and celebrated with the adoring fans who had 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 at the 4.3km Zandvoort track.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was 11th in his McLaren.
Verstappen started from pole position for a season-leading seventh time, and sixth in the past seven races, courtesy of a brilliant qualifying session on Saturday.
Verstappen will look to carry his momentum into the Italian GP at Monza next weekend, where Hamilton again seeks a record-extending 100th win.
“I gave it absolutely everything today, flat-out. I pushed as hard as I could. But they were just too quick for us,” Hamilton said.