Sixty-five thousand fans were on their feet and euphoric as they watched their home hero Max Verstappen fend off title rival Lewis Hamilton to snatch pole position for the returning Dutch Grand Prix.
Verstappen looked in control throughout qualifying and cruised through the opening two segments with what appeared to be plenty left in the tank. And he unleashed that pace when it mattered to take provisional pole – and improved again on his second run leading to an eruption in the grandstands.
Hamilton improved on his final lap – finding two tenths on Verstappen in the final sector – but it wasn’t quite enough as he leapfrogged Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, 0.038s adrift from Dutchman Verstappen who took his sixth pole position in seven Grands Prix.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took a superb fourth – equalling his starting spot in Azerbaijan – where incidentally he went on to finish on the podium in third with Charles Leclerc, who was quickest in Q1, the leading Ferrari in fifth.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN DUTCH GRAND PRIX 2021
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:08.885|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:08.923|
|3 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:09.222|
|4 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||1:09.478|
|5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||1:09.527|
Carlos Sainz recovered from a crash in FP3, with the team able to repair the car without the need to replace his gearbox – which would have incurred a grid penalty – to take sixth, while contender for driver of the day Antonio Giovinazzi equalled his best-ever qualifying performance with seventh.
Esteban Ocon outqualified Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso to take the lead in the head-to-head 7-6, though he pipped the double world champion by just 0.023s, while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10, finishing ahead of Lando Norris on a Saturday for the second successive Grand Prix weekend.
But the day belonged to Verstappen, who rode high on the immense support from his orange-clad army that have been in party mood from the moment the gates to Zandvoort opened on Saturday morning. Can he convert pole, on a track where overtaking could be difficult, into victory to finish the job? We’ll find out tomorrow…