ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Max Verstappen's runaway pursuit of a third straight Formula One championship may not provide much in the way of mystery, but along the way he is doing his best to offer some history.
Verstappen won a rain-marred Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday to equal Sebastian Vettel's F1 record of nine straight victories, with the 25-year-old Dutchman increasing his already huge lead in the standings to 138 points as he races toward a third straight title on the international open-wheel circuit.
The Red Bull star clinched his third straight win from pole position at the Zandvoort track, with veteran Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain finishing second and picking up a bonus point for the fastest lap.
"Nine in a row is something I never even thought about. Very happy with that," Verstappen said. "I know I have a car which is capable of a lot."
The orange-clad home crowd pumped him up as the series returned from its annual three-week midseason break.
"I already had goose bumps when they were playing the national anthem before the start. Even with all the bad weather and the rain, the fans were still going at it — an incredible atmosphere," Verstappen said. "I'm going to enjoy this. It's always tough, the pressure is always on to perform."
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly crossed the line in fourth place behind Red Bull driver Sergio Pérez of Mexico, but the Frenchman moved up to third because Pérez was given a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Gasly was given the same penalty earlier but ultimately secured the fourth podium finish of his F1 career.
"I'm feeling so stoked, what a race," Gasly said.
Perez ended up fourth, ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr., with sixth place going to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
The chaotic race was held up for 40 minutes by a late red flag after Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu crashed. It restarted with a rolling start on lap 65 of 72 in a race that featured multiple tire swaps as changing weather conditions played havoc.
"There were so many rivers on the track, it just becomes so dangerous," Verstappen said of the water on the high-banked circuit.
The race restarted with Verstappen ahead of Alonso, Perez and Gasly. After two laps behind the safety car, Verstappen comfortably pulled away for his 11th win of a dominant campaign to stretch his lead over Perez.
Vettel set the consecutive wins record in 2013 with Red Bull during its first dominant era — he was with the team from 2009-14 and won four straight titles from 2010-13 — and Verstappen's victory was a record-extending 14th straight for Red Bull dating to last year's finale.
"To match Sebastian, nine straight victories, to do it twice as a team is really incredible," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who was also in charge during the golden era of Vettell, who retired from F1 after the 2022 season.
Verstappen also moved closer to his own F1 record of 15 wins set last year and onto 46 overall. Verstappen, who turns 26 next month, is already fifth in career wins. Alain Prost (51) and Vettel (53) are within his sights with nine races left this year; catching Michael Schumacher (91) and Hamilton (103) will require more long-term success.
It was another bad day for Ferrari as Charles Leclerc retired on the 44th lap due to floor damage. It was Leclerc's third incomplete race of the season, as many as all of last year, and teammate Sainz still does not have a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin's Alonso is enjoying a resurgence at age 42 and is confident of getting his 33rd career win at some point.
"We're getting closer," he said. "The car was flying, it was very competitive, very easy to drive. In these conditions, you need a car that you can trust, and I did trust the car today."
McLaren's Lando Norris finished seventh, while Alex Albon (Williams), Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Esteban Ocon (Alpine) completed the top 10.
Logan Sargeant started 10th, the highest spot on an F1 grid for an American driver since 1993, but the 22-year-old crashed for the second time in as many days, bringing out the safety car on the 17th lap.
"I don't know what happened, man," an exasperated Sargeant said on the team radio.
Sargeant, who has not scored a point in his debut season and is fighting to save his seat with Williams Racing, later sat on a grass bank with his head down.
The season continues next Sunday with the Italian GP at Monza, Ferrari's home track and the site of Vettel's first career win.