Max Verstappen can equal Sebastian Vettel’s record nine wins in a row this weekend as Formula One ends its August break and heads for the Dutch seaside dunes of Zandvoort.
The 25-year-old Red Bull driver can count on a capacity crowd cheering him all the way as he returns home more dominant than ever.
The double world champion is favourite to complete a hat-trick, after winning the two races held at the circuit since it returned to the calendar in 2021, and has a 125 point lead over Mexican team mate Sergio Perez after 12 of 22 rounds.
Red Bull are meanwhile chasing a 14th successive win, and 13th of this season, with the run dating back to Abu Dhabi last year.
Germany’s Vettel, now-retired, is the only driver to have won nine races in a row during a single campaign and he did it for Red Bull on his way to a fourth title in 2013.
“I’m excited to get going with the second half of the season now and what better way to start than in the Netherlands,” said Verstappen.
“It’s an amazing track and of course, the fans are incredible there, so I’m definitely excited to get back on track.
“It looks like the weather could be temperamental there but I don’t mind either way, wet or dry, we’ll do our best to make sure we score maximum points.”
The battle to be best of the rest promises to be more exciting, with Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren all ready to pounce if Red Bull have a shock off day and drop the ball.
Ferrari came closest at the previous round in Belgium, with Charles Leclerc finishing third behind the two Red Bulls, and the Monegasque also started on the front row at Zandvoort last year.
“We have a group with Mercedes, Aston, McLaren and sometimes Alpine able to fight for the first rows which means that its an exciting challenge and situation,” said Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur.
“I think its quite impossible to predict who will be in good shape at Zandvoort or Monza,” added the Frenchman, saying much depended on track conditions, set-up, how teams managed the weekend and drivers making the difference.
Ferrari’s Israeli reserve Robert Shwartzman will take Carlos Sainz’s place for first practice as part of team obligations to run a young driver in two sessions over the year.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who was second in Zandvoort last year, would also be recharged and ready.
“We will push hard in the battle for second in the constructors’ championship. We will also be driving development forward for 2024,” said the Austrian.
Renault-owned Alpine, under new management after the departure of principal Otmar Szafnauer, will also be hoping for a strong weekend.
“Clearly, the weeks leading up to the break were not easy for everyone at the team,” said Alpine’s interim principal Bruno Famin.
“There is no change to the team’s strategy or objectives, only a change in some personnel as outlined before the break. Zandvoort is an exciting fresh start for all of us and I’m sure everyone at the team is ready for the challenge.”