Hamilton, on medium tyres, was leading the race at the time, but had Verstappen behind him on soft tyres. Russell chose to take advantage of the free pit stop to switch to softs, but Hamilton was kept out on his mediums, effectively becoming a sitting duck once the safety car retired at the end of lap 60 out of 72.
Verstappen was past the Mercedes by the end of the pit straight on lap 61, and Hamilton ended up losing another two places, to teammate Russell and then Ferrari’s Leclerc, before the end of the race.
“That was the biggest **** up,” Hamilton told his team as he went backwards through the field. “I can’t believe you guys **** **** me, can’t tell you how **** I am.”
The race was a slow burner, taking a while to explode into life. There was a moment of drama at the start. Hamilton, starting fourth, making contact with Sainz trying to pass the Ferrari on the inside of Turn 1, his front left giving the Spaniard’s sidepod a little nudge.
But unlike at Spa last weekend, when the seven-time champion collided with the Alpine of Fernando Alonso on the opening lap and was forced to retire, this time he survived the incident.
In fact, none of the top seven cars switched position and with overtaking at Zandvoort, with its tight, twisty layout, at a premium, the race soon settled into a rhythm.
It exploded into life in the second half of the race, though.
Mercedes looked as if they might be trying for a one-stopper, and were having some joy on the hard tyres. But a very strange series of incidents involving Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri – Red Bull’s sister team – flipped the race on its head.