Max Verstappen roared his way towards pole position for his home grand prix at Zandvoort taking it away from Charles Leclerc by the smallest of margins.
The weekend did not start well for the reigning Formula 1 Champion, as he missed out on FP1 due to a gearbox issue, but showed in FP3 that he meant business for qualifying.
Verstappen approached qualifying with confidence, using one set of Soft tyres to go through Q1 and Q2, as Leclerc and Ferrari did not get into the rhythm.
However in Q3, Leclerc gave a warning to his rival with a strong first timed lap as Verstappen messed up his, but the Monegasque messed his final flying lap and ended up losing out to the Dutchman by a painful 0.021s.
Carlos Sainz took third in the other Ferrari, 0.092s off Verstappen time, in what could be the closest qualifying result we have seen in some time.
Second placed Charles Leclerc reflected on qualifying, he said: “It was very, very close. Max did a great lap in the end. Our car was getting better and better through qualifying.
“At the beginning I was pretty scared because Max was much, much quicker than us on used tyres, but then in Q3 the car came a bit more together and I managed to do that lap, which was close enough for P2. But tomorrow is the race and we’ll give it all.
“For tomorrow, I think our race pace looks quite strong. It’s going to be close with Red Bull but we just need to do a great start and then we’ll see,” Leclerc concluded.
Carlos Sainz believed he and the team did a decent job, he said: “It was a clean lap with no mistakes, just missing that last half a tenth to a tenth to beat Charles and Max.
“It was on the limit out there, every little metre of track that you could use and that you could push was counting. It wasn’t an easy qualy, but I think in the end we did a decent job.
“I think tomorrow it’s going to be an interesting day. There’s going to be a lot going on, even if it’s a difficult track to overtake, there’s still going to be many options with strategies,” the Spaniard predicted.
In the end, despite Ferrari and Leclerc’s best efforts, it was Verstappen’s day at Zandvoort and he could be denied.
Lando Norris was the only McLaren to reach Q3, ending his session seventh fastest 0.832s off the pace, and was followed by Mick Schumacher in eighth.
The German was superb throughout qualifying – while teammate Kevin Magnussen was down in 18th place – but was 1.1s off the pace in the end.
Yuki Tsunoda was ninth fastest for AlphaTauri, 0.114s behind Schumacher, and ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll who was tenth.
The Canadian did a solid job to reach Q3, but a technical problem meant he could take part in the final top ten shootout, hence his tenth place.
Q2 was Red flagged after less than two minutes , as the an orange flare was thrown in the middle of the circuit, just when Williams’ Alex Albon was making his out lap, which was naturally ruined as he had to return to the pits.
Alpine were out next as Esteban Ocon was 12th fastest ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso in 13th 0.008s behind his teammate, which is disappointing for the team that have been Q3 contenders for some time now.
Zhou Guanyu was 14th fastest in the Alfa Romeo, who outqualified his teammate Valtteri Bottas (knocked out in Q1), with a 1:11.704.
Alex Albon could not make it into Q3 this time, and qualified 15th fastest, missing the cut by 0.374s.
Max Verstappen led the 15 drivers that made the cut from the first part of qualifying with a 1:11.317, followed by Charles Leclerc in second, 0.126s off the pace, as the Dutchman only had to run one hot lap before returning to the pits.
Behind the top two, all the drivers were fighting to make it out of Q1, as the track was evolving fast with lap times dropping the more the cars ran.