The extent of Max Verstappen’s domination was well-illustrated by George Russell’s post-qualifying comments, the Mercedes driver expecting Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to cruise from pole position to victory at the Dutch Grand Prix on Sunday.
Tricky conditions prevailed throughout the day, with qualifying starting wet and ending dry, catching out some big names in the process. By the time the sunset over Orange Zandvoort, Verstappen was top of the time sheets followed by Lando Norris making the most of the handy McLaren making up the front row. Followed by Russell, 0.727s shy of the top-time, third quickest.
Speaking in parc ferme after Qualifying, Russell said: “Really great session. Qualy was one of my strengths at the start of the year and it has been going a bit wrong recently. It was good to have that break and I came in with a fresh set of ideas, good reset and we are in a great place to fight for the podium.
“The lap was OK. We always struggle when it’s very wet or it’s the crossover onto slicks and we have to get that temperature into the tyres. But we know the Saturday weakness is the strength on Sundays. It’s going to be an exciting race.
“I’m sure Max will be having his Sunday drive and waving to the crowd tomorrow, but hopefully, we can have a good fight with Alex, Lando and all those guys,” said Russell.
In contrast to his younger teammate, Hamilton, a record 104-time Grand Prix pole winner, had a comparatively lousy session, the seven-time F1 World Champion was only good for 13th. He was out in Q2.
“Since FP1, I’ve lost some confidence in the car and that made qualifying tricky,” revealed Hamilton. “It was tough to get the tyres into the working window, I struggled with the balance and overall grip, and George also did a few different settings that seemed to work better.
“But we know that the car operates in a narrow window, and these things can happen when you are in that situation. On the final run, I did two consecutive laps and the tyres overheated on the second one, so I couldn’t improve the time.
“Sunday is a new challenge; hopefully the car will be a bit better on full tanks, and we can make some forward progress. This isn’t an easy circuit for doing that – but that will be the goal,” added Hamilton.
Tea boss Toto Wolff summed up Mercedes qualifying at Zandvoort on Saturday: “It was a challenging session, as we know our car is not the strongest when it comes to warming up the tyres in the wet and on the drying track. That means we need to put all the details together and that was hard.”
“George got the maximum from it to take a second row, so I hope he will be racing for the podium tomorrow. For Lewis, it seemed like he was impeded on every timed lap – including his quickest one – but he also didn’t have full confidence in the car.
“We will analyse why – but we know as well that we can race stronger than the cars around him, so I hope to see him move forward tomorrow. So, a day of mixed fortunes; but we can take positives from P3 and build from there,” concluded Wolff.