F1: Verstappen on Pole ahead of Dutch GP
Updated: Sep 5, 2021
Red Bull's Max Verstappen claimed Pole Position ahead of his home Grand Prix as Formula One made it's return to Zanvoort while Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly and Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi starred in the ultra-tight qualifying session.
Upwards of sixty thousand passionate and enthusiastic Dutch supporters shouted from the stands surrounding the Zandvoort circuit as home hero Max Verstappen lay down an impressive marker that could not be beaten by Championship Leader Lewis Hamilton.
“It's an amazing feeling of course to get pole position here. The crowd is incredible and today was very enjoyable. The car was really nice to drive and this track as well in qualifying, once the fuel comes out, it's really cool.” Max Verstappen, Red Bull
As the challengers fell trying to best Verstappen's mighty lap, Hamilton's final sector, where he found two tenths of a second, got the Brit within touching distance but just fell short by 0.038s. As the Dutch fans rose to their feet, there was jubilation in the Red Bull Pit Garage as their driver had taken an important Pole Position.
HOME HERO: With the weight of an energetic nation on his shoulders, Verstappen looks to claim his seventh win of the season on home soil
If he wins the race tomorrow, Verstappen can mathematically lead the championship having cut the deficit to Hamilton after winning the shortened Belgain GP. Only three points seperate the two title rivals.
However, Verstappen's chances of winning tomorrow have been severely impacted by the poor performance of team-mate Sergio Perez who was knocked-out in Q1. Starting on the front-row, Verstappen will be out-numbered as both Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valterri Bottas aim to hunt the Dutchman down.
The qualifying session itself was full of surprises, twists and turns as well as the continuation of stoppages
Throughout the whole of the opening qualifying session in particular, traffic and track position was hard to come by. With the rapid improvement of the track towards the dying few moments, a few drivers were caught out. Perez was one of them having set a time but by the end of the session, other drivers had posted better laps.
Another surprise elimination was Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel who's final lap was disrupted by traffic and slower moving drivers. This time it was the Haas drivers of Mick Schumacher and team-mate Nikita Mazepin who fought over track position which cost the Aston Martin driver a shot at a flying flap. With Mazepin more at fault, the Russian is expected to receive a grid penalty for his antics.
With five less drivers, the second stage of qualifying led to even more drama as Williams' star driver and potentially Mercedes bound George Russell hit the gravel traps causing an early red flag. The Brit and his car were unharmed but the stoppage had meant that the run plans for the other drivers had been thrown out the window.
As the clock counted down, only a few minutes remained but now the other Williams driver of Nicholas Latifi brought the session to a close as the Canadian suffered a high-speed crash. Coming a croper at Turn 8, Latifi dipped a tyre on entry which spun the car into the barrier and with less time remaining on the board that it takes to complete a lap, the session came to an early end.
COSTLY CRASH: The extent of the damage caused by Latifi's crash will determine if the Canadian needs new components heading into the race
Thankfully for the drivers, the final session of qualifying ran far more smoothly. By the end of the first runs, Verstappen had a three tenth margin to Bottas and nearly three and a half tenth advantage over Hamilton. Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly was in a tight battle with the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz as they looked to fill the positon of 'best of the rest'.
Come the second and final runs, Verstappen improved to lift the benchmark and his first challenger in Bottas, couldn't improve. Hamilton's final sector put the Brit within touching distance but it wasn't to be.
Behind the top three, Gasly came out on top and secured fourth which equals his best start in sport while Leclerc headed Sainz.
Equalling a career-best starting position of seventh, Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi dragged his C41 ahead of more established top ten runners in a bid to secure his seat at the team next season.
FLYING FORM: With numerous rumours circling the paddock about every team's line-up next season, Giovinazzi staked his claim by qualifying superbly well
Both Alpine drivers of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were evenly matched but it was the Frenchman who came out on top as they headed a rejuvenated Daniel Ricciardo who slotted his McLaren into tenth.
On a track where overtaking is difficult given the tight and twisty nature of Zandvoort, the race for victory might be ultimately be decided on the run down to the first corner or potentially in the pit-stop phase.
Verstappen's on Pole, but will Hamilton spoil the party come tomorrow?