Max Verstappen praised the efforts of his Red Bull team on Saturday after he claimed a pulsating late pole position with a dramatic final lap at his home Dutch Grand Prix, outpacing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by just two-hundredths of a second.
To the delight of a raucous mass of home supporters in a packed crowd at the Zandvoort seaside circuit, the 24-year-old Dutchman pulled out a fastest lap of 1:10.342 to top the times and secure his second successive pole on home soil.
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It came 24 hours after a difficult opening day for the world champion who was halted by a gearbox failure in the first practice session.
“Unbelievable,” said Verstappen, who also criticised elements of his ‘orange army’ of fans who had brought flares into the circuit. “Especially after yesterday! We had a difficult day, but we worked really well overnight.
“The whole team turned it around and today we had a quick race car again, but it was very close and the pole lap was insane.
“We changed things a lot. Yesterday was a bit rushed in FP2 to get the car together, but today the car was enjoyable to drive.”
It brought a fourth pole this season and 17th of his career for Red Bull’s runaway series leader. He was also quickest in qualifying in Belgium last weekend, but he was unable to take pole due to a grid penalty.
Leclerc was second in 1:10.363 ahead of his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Sergio Perez, who crashed on his final lap in the second Red Bull.
“It was very, very close,” said Leclerc. “Max did a great lap in the end. Our car was getting better and better through qualifying. In the beginning, I was pretty scared because Max was much, much quicker on used tyres.
“But in Q3, the car came a bit more together and I managed to do that lap which was close enough for P2. Tomorrow is the race — and we will give it our all.
“I think we are much stronger here compared to last weekend, so that’s good to see and for tomorrow, I think our race pace looks strong and hopefully it will be close with the Red Bull. We just need to do a great start.” – ‘On the limit’ –
Sainz said: “It was a clean lap with no mistakes, just missing that last half a tenth to beat Charles and Max who were on the limit out there. I think in the end we did a decent job.
“It is very tough out there especially with the heavier cars, the track is especially demanding on the tyres, we have a lot of overheating and degradation.
“I think tomorrow is going to be an interesting day, there is going to be a lot going on even if it’s a difficult track to overtake, there will still many options with strategies.” Asked about the behaviour of some fans, among the many orange-clad spectators, who lit flares, which are forbidden, and threw them on the track, Verstappen said: “It’s a very silly thing to do, it’s stupid, so just don’t do that, — you get thrown out, it ruins the race.”
George Russell, who reported not only flares, but several pigeons being a nuisance on the track, was sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of Lando Norris of McLaren, Haas’s Mick Schumacher, Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, who was unable to run in Q3 due to mechanical problems.
Perez’s ‘off’ brought out yellow flags which affected all following cars, including both Mercedes drivers.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said Hamilton was “a tenth up” on both Verstappen and Leclerc before the yellows were waved.
“Only being a tenth behind a Red Bull was a great feeling,” said Hamilton.
“It really gives me a lot of hope that I could fight for the front row, but then obviously the yellow flag at the end was a bit unfortunate – but that’s motor racing.”
He added that “I generally feel good… I am really happy that the car has finally felt alive this weekend.
“We’ve closed the gap, somehow, on a single lap. I can’t really understand why, but anyways…
“So, I’m hoping that means we are closer — and even closer in the race — and if we are that would be fantastic. If we can fight these guys and have a battle with these three ahead of me, that would be an amazing experience.”
Russell was less enthusiastic.
“It’s not brilliant, to be honest,” he said. “The car was feeling great all weekend, but it just didn’t click for me today.”
He added that “P6 is not a terrible place to start. Turn One is going to be vital and the first few laps, but I see no reason why I can’t fight for a podium.”
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