Max Verstappen will start his home Grand Prix from pole after beating championship rival Lewis Hamilton by three-hundredths of a second in qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver had appeared in control throughout qualifying but Hamilton improved on his final lap to miss out by the narrowest of margins.
Verstappen was first to set his fastest lap in Q3 leaving the seven-time champion to respond, but lost time in the final sector despite going purple in the first two sectors. The dutchman appeared to be unfazed by the accident filled session which resulted in a nail biting final few seconds.
Hamilton set his fastest time of the weekend a 08.923, which was his fastest time of the weekend. The Red Bull and Mercedes drivers head to head on the front row for the first time since there opening lap collision at Silverstone.
The two title contenders have not started on the front row together since there coming together on the opening lap at Silverstone. Mercedes appeared to be closer than many expected following practice where it looked as if the world champions were behind Red Bull.
Verstappen had been eight tenths ahead following the first runs, but Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas could only close to within three tenths before the seven-times champion moved ahead of his teammate by three tenths. The Finn being three tenths off the outright pace.
Verstappen revealed that he had a double upshift on his lap and had also failed to open the DRS overtaking aid on the run to the line, both of which would have cost time.
The Dutchman said, “It is of course the best position. We know passing is difficult, a lot of laps around here, the tyres are struggling around the high speed corners but I hope we can finish it off tomorrow.”
Hamilton said, “So close. I want to say a big thank you to all the orange fans here, the Dutch fans. What an amazing venue and track. I really love coming to this country. Max did an amazing lap and I was so close to catching him. With yesterday’s session missed, it made it difficult, but I did my best.”
Pierre Gasly had a strong qualifying putting his Alpha Tauri fourth, a quarter of a second behind Bottas, as well as out-qualifying both the Ferrari’s by half a second. Charles Leclerc just pipping his teammate Carlos Sainz, who had a crash during FP3 and just made it out in time for the start of Q1, by just a hundredth of a second.
Ferrari had looked to be a genuine contender to fight for the front row, but that unravelled slightly when in FP3 Red Bull and Mercedes upped the pace, then when Sainz crashed through Hugenholtz during the practice session.
Losing the back end of his car exiting Turn Two as he approached the banked next left-hander, Sainz was spun around into a big impact with the barriers. The Spaniard’s car sustained what appeared significant damaged, but made it out in Q1. Antonio Giovinazzi was a surprise for Alfa Romeo going seventh.
It was a solid session for the Italian who got through to Q3 after the session was red-flagged when George Russell was trying to get out of the drop zone. The Williams driver was trying to improve when he spun at Arie Luyenduk, while on a decent lap before spinning.
The top ten will all start the race on the soft tyre (C3) having set the fastest times in Q2 on the compound, track evolution has been quite impressive meaning that the normal medium tyre (C2) teams would have liked to got through the second part with could have risked them dropping out in Q2.
Russell admitting after the session his crash into the barriers as he attacked too aggressively at the end of a lap which could have sealed his place in Q3. Saying “Apologies to the team. I pushed too hard today and ultimately cost us a shot at Q3. No excuses. Starting P11 tomorrow. I’ll do my best to make it up.”
While spinning he careered through the gravel and the right-rear biffed into the outside Tecpro barrier, he was able to immediately rejoin the track and recover the car to the pits. But unfortunately what looked to be minor damage could not be repaired before the end of Q2.
Behind Giovinazzi Esteban Ocon out-qualified his Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso by two-tenths taking eighth while Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten. Russell remained eleventh, the Englishman denied Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo the chance to improve.
For Norris, it was the first time this season he has failed not to get through to Q3, this season. Nicolas Latifi going fourteenth going two tenths ahead of the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Latifi like his teammate made a mistake causing a mistake when he put a wheel onto the grass and then spun across the gravel and headed side-on into the exit barrier with three minutes to go. That brought the session to an early conclusion.
Traffic was always going to be the biggest issue in Q1, both Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel were the biggest casualties. Both drivers were caught out by traffic on the out lap leading to them not getting enough clean air to improve as well as late improvements by Stroll and Ricciardo, leaving them sixteenth and seventeenth.
Following qualifying given Perez low position, Red Bull has opted to introduce his fourth power unit of the season, meaning he will start from the back of the grid. The team could also change the gearbox without further penalty.
It also still has the option to make other changes to the car’s set-up that will potentially make it more competitive in the race but oblige the Mexican to start from the pitlane. Reports suggest that the preferred choice is to retain a position on the grid and try to make up places on the first lap.
Asked after qualifying about prospects for the race, Perez said: “I think we are facing a race that no one really knows what to expect. There are a lot of things that could happen coming up. Let’s see what happens in the coming race.
“It’s certainly a circuit that demands a lot from the drivers. So anything would be possible tomorrow. It will be hard to overtake, it will be hard to follow, but we’ll just have to do a race as good as possible.”
Vettel was also caught out by the two Haas drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher trying to find track position. The Russian had let Schumacher back past and then jumped on the accelerator and pulled to the inside, leading both cars to block Vettel, who finished seventeenth.
Schumacher finishing nineteenth, half a second ahead of Mazepin. Both Haas drivers were placed under investigation for impeding but no further action was taken.
Robert Kubica put his Alfa Romeo eighteenth; the polish driver being brought into replace Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn tested positive for coronavirus on Friday evening.