Max Verstappen claimed pole position for his home Dutch Grand Prix on Saturday to the delight of his orange army of fans packing the stands at Zandvoort. McLaren’s Lando Norris will start alongside the Red Bull double world champion on the front row of Sunday’s race. A runaway leader by 125 points in the championship Verstappen has a perfect record since his home event returned to the F1 calendar in 2021, starting from the front of the grid and winning both races. In tricky changeable conditions at the unforgiving seaside circuit two red flags led to a frantic closing couple of minutes – just time to nail one final flying lap. And not for the first time Verstappen produced the goods.
“It was a very tricky qualifying, all about staying out of trouble,” said Verstappen who is on a quest for a ninth successive win on Sunday to draw him level with Sebastian Vettel’s record set in 2013.
He added: “I had to risk it a bit but that last lap was very enjoyable.
“The pressure is always there to perform (at his home race) but when you can pull it off it’s incredible.”
Norris described ‘P2’ as “a good result in these conditions.
“Every now and then you hope Max will make a mistake but he doesn’t,” the Briton added.
Mercedes’ George Russell took third to start on the second row of Sunday’s race with Alex Albon’s Williams alongside him.
Qualifying began with a mix of sun and threatening clouds over the tight and twisty circuit carved into the dunes following earlier storms that caused chaos in third practice.
On a slippery track with spray flying Verstappen was in good company when sliding onto the safety gravel at turn one as qualifying started.
“What’s going on with the car, I have no grip, I’m spinning everywhere,” he exclaimed over the team radio.
As Oscar Piastri’s McLaren and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz came close to contact with visibility low Albon’s Williams shot to the top of the pile from Verstappen.
Rain began to fall with two minutes left of the first qualifying segment, putting pressure on Charles Leclerc to scrape into the top 15 and the man from Monaco threw everything at it in his Ferrari, slithering around to nip through to the middle session.
Among the group of five going out was Liam Lawson, AlphaTauri’s reserve driver called up on Friday night to stand in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
With the track drying, the sun shining, the times tumbled and it was Verstappen who led the way into the top 10 shoot-out as Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in a shock for the Mercedes seven-time champion.
“It’s not an easy track to move forwards on but tomorrow is a new day, so I will give it my best” said Hamilton.
This was hugely disappointing for Hamilton, even more so when Logan Sargeant, the American rookie at the wheel of the Williams, scraped into the final qualifying session for the first time in his fledgling F1 career.
As the racetrack DJ cranked up the volume the last 10 standing emerged to scrap for the first five rows in Sunday’s grid.
Sargeant’s euphoria lasted all of a minute of Q3 when he smashed his Williams into the barrier at turn two, prompting a red flag.
“I’m ok, sorry,” he assured his pit crew, before hopping out of the cockpit as his mechanics readied for a long night repairing his machine for the race.
After a 20-minute delay to repair the barrier qualifying resumed with eight minutes left on the clock.
A frantic burst of track activity followed with McLaren duo Norris and Piastri going top before the red flag came out again when Leclerc found the barriers at turn nine.
Norris was four minutes away from the second pole of his career as the session got back under way with the pressure on Verstappen and company to overhaul him.
With the crowd willing him on Verstappen pulled it out of the bag to give him an ideal platform to maintain his and Red Bull’s incredible run of form this season.