Max Verstappen will start the Dutch Grand Prix from pole position, after outclassing his rivals during a tricky Qualifying session at Zandvoort on Saturday and admitting “it’s incredible” when things come together for such a lap.
The soon-to-be three-time Formula 1 World Champion, made it three top spot starts at his home venue, turned Orange yet again this weekend by his fans celebrating one of the great drivers in our sport, still in his prime. And these days, seldom disappointing as he romps to a third F1 title.
Next on his weekend agenda at Zandy will be to take home the big trophy handed out on Sunday for the 33rd Grand Prix in the Netherlands. Winning on Sunday will make it three victories from three at home for the Red Bull ace.
Speaking in Parc Ferme after the Qualifying session, Verstappen said: “It was a very tricky Qualifying. The track surface is quite slippery with the new tarmac. It was all about putting your laps in but staying out of trouble. I think we managed that quite well.
“There was one dry line in some places on the slicks, so we had to risk it a bit, but that last lap was very enjoyable. The pressure is always there to perform but when you pull it off it’s incredible.”
In the team report later, Verstappen added: “It’s all about putting in good laps and staying out of trouble. We’ve had wet conditions at the last few races but it’s the first time here in Zandvoort, the wind and drying track played a big factor in Q3 and turn one on my final lap was a bit tricky, but the Team made all the right calls today.
“The pressure’s always there to perform in front of your home crowd but when you can pull it off it feels incredible. To be on pole here feels great and we have a very strong car for tomorrow, let’s see what we can do,” ventured Verstappen.
Perez: I definitely wanted to be a lot higher up
In the sister car, Sergio Perez was well and truly beaten by his teammate again. The Mexican is struggling to keep up. Results show he will start sixth, but the 1.3 seconds margin down on Max was telling. Not a good showing by the veteran.
Perez reflected: “It was a challenging qualifying, with the changeable conditions and amount of red flag time. I definitely wanted to be a lot higher up, especially for the race because it is not an easy track to overtake around.
“It was very tricky out there, especially towards the end and the strategy we took in Q3 was probably not ideal in hindsight. At the time we thought it was the best to do a double push but I think doing a single timed lap would have been better for the tyre.
“We just have to look forward now, we have a great race car, we had very strong race pace on Friday and in the simulations so hopefully we are able to make some good progress. I want to keep the momentum from before the summer break going, we should be able to really come through the field and deliver the podium,” predicted Perez.
Horner: For Max, it’s hard not to feel the expectation of the crowd
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner gave the team’s side of today’s qualifying story: “Today was a continually moving target with the constantly changing conditions and there were moments where we thought it could get away from us.
“The biggest wobble we had with Max was when he went straight on in Q1 on his first lap. The next he got blocked and we had an eye on the weather hoping we weren’t going to miss out, we just needed to get one lap on the board and thankfully the next lap he managed to, he just struggled to get the temperature into the tyres initially.
“In taxing conditions like this, there was a lot of debate around when to run, which tyres etc, and with the added pressure of a home race for Max, it’s hard not to feel the expectation of the crowd, the noise and the hype, but the way Max manages that is truly remarkable.
“Once again the whole Team did a fantastic job in reading the conditions, preparing the car and getting it right for the lap when it mattered, and that last lap was classic Max, truly lightning.
“Checo aborted his first lap to push on the second as he could feel the track evolving but didn’t quite have the confidence that Max had today in those difficult conditions and we saw a lot of drivers making mistakes. We’ve got a really mixed-up grid in the top ten but we know Checo can race well from seventh and it’ll be an interesting race,” reckoned Horner.