Max Verstappen snatched pole for the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years by less than a tenth of a second from title rival Lewis Hamilton in a tense qualifying finish at Zandvoort.
Verstappen looked comfortably in control atop the standings for the first two segments of qualifying and after the first laps of the pole shootout held a three-tenths margin over both Mercedes drivers. So good was the Dutchman’s lap that he could squeeze only 0.038s of improvement with his second attempt.
Hamilton, on the other hand, had left plenty on the table to gain with his second attempt, correcting several snaps of oversteer in the key traction zones to run Verstappen close.
In the end the title leader fell an agonizing 0.038s short of Verstappen with a lap equal to his rival’s first time, leaving him second. The result sent the home crowd into raptures, and Verstappen soaked up the support.
They turned up in their thousands 🧡
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 4, 2021
“It’s an amazing feeling of course to get pole position here,” he said. “The crowd is incredible, and today was also very enjoyable.
“The car was really nice to drive. This track as well in qualifying, once the fuel comes out, is really cool.”
The Dutchman has high hopes of gifting his home supporters victory on Sunday.
“Of course it’s the best starting position. We know passing is difficult. I don’t expect it to be an easy race…but today was good, so I hope we can finish it off tomorrow.”
Hamilton was pleased to have come so close to his championship rival after missing almost all of the important second practice session with an engine problem, though he admitted the difficulty passing around the serpentine circuit left him with few Sunday prospects.
“Max did an amazing lap, and I was so close,” he said. “I was trying to catch him — obviously with yesterday’s session missed, it made it a bit of a difficult day, but he did a fantastic lap and he deserves the pole.
“[The race] is going to be tough. It’s a difficult circuit to overtake — but what a place for us to be racing…I hope the track helps us provide a good race.”
Valtteri Bottas qualified third, the Finn 0.337s off the pace but well placed to play a strategic role in the battle for victory.
“We still have two cars in the top three, so it’s all to play for,” he said. “The race start is always an opportunity, and of course the strategy.”
Pierre Gasly will start alongside Bottas with a lap just 0.593s shy of Verstappen’s best.
Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz qualified 0.6s off the pace on the third row — just reward for the Ferrari’s team’s efforts to get Sainz’s car repaired in time to take part in qualifying following his FP3 crash.
Antonio Giovinazzi qualified a superb seventh for Alfa Romeo in a week of speculation surrounding his future with the team, beating Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, while Daniel Ricciardo ended a subdued 10th.
The mid-grid was decided by two red flags both caused by Williams drivers.
The first, for George Russell, came with a little less than four minutes remaining on the clock when the Briton spun off track at speed at the penultimate corner, the back of the car giving up and rear-ending the barrier.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Russell slides into the barriers
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 4, 2021
The Briton had kept the motor running and was able to return to his garage under his own power, but a 10-minute suspension was required to clean the gravel trap and repair the barrier.
The session had barely resumed when Nicholas Latifi’s afternoon met a near identical end, albeit at Turn 8. The Canadian dipped his left-front tire onto the dirt on approach and lost the car in a snap that sent him rocketing backwards through the gravel and into the wall with less than 90 seconds remaining, truncating the session.
Russell therefore qualified 11th ahead of Lance Stroll and Lando Norris, the last-named mystifyingly off pace during qualifying relative to the weekend to date. Latifi was 14th ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel were the two big scalps of Q1, though each had mitigating circumstances to point to for their lowly grid positions.
Perez’s qualifying effort was undone as he left pit lane for his final flying lap. Red Bull Racing left it late to send him onto the track, which was evolving rapidly, but cars moving slowly in the pit lane left him with too fine a margin to complete his out-lap, and the Mexican ended up missing the flag by seconds, leaving him 16th.
Vettel, on the other hand, stumbled across traffic at the penultimate corner and was balked badly by Nikita Mazepin as the Russian diced with teammate Mick Schumacher for position. The Aston Martin driver had to back out completely from his final flyer to avoid what would have been an enormous crash, consigning him to 17th,
Robert Kubica, standing in for the COVID-positive Kimi Raikkonen, acquitted himself well enough with 18th ahead of Haas teammates Schumacher and Mazepin, with the latter due to see the stewards after the session for his role blocking Vettel.