DUTCH GP – Max Verstappen takes third consecutive home pole, half a second ahead of Lando Norris

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has beaten Lando Norris by half a second to take a third consecutive pole for the Dutch Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver was half a second faster on his final attempt to beat Norris to pole in a tricky action-packed qualifying session where it was about staying on track and finding the best of the dry line.

The final shoot-out for pole, all boiled down to a one lap dash after Charles Leclerc tried to fit an extra run in. The Ferrari driver crashed the car at Bocht Nine causing heavy damage to the side of the car and breaking the rear suspension which could have damaged the gearbox, thus gaining a five place grid penalty.

Leclerc normally one of the stars in qualifying had a difficult session, he nearly found himself knocked out in Q1 as conditions improved. His first mistake was in Q1 when he missed the apex of Turn Eleven putting him offline for Hans Ernst, that loss of moment continued with his then siding at Kumbho, all in all an error-filled last sector.

While it looked to be close, as often been the case this season, no one could stop Verstappen from claiming pole. Norris had looked close to challenging Verstappen to go fastest in sector one, but his slim changes were lost as he lost time in the middle sector.

In addition to extending his own historic run, on Sunday Verstappen will be looking to maintain Red Bull’s streak of having won all twelve races of the 2023 season.

McLaren has continued their mid-season revival, Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri have shown decent pace but the Australian couldn’t improve on his last run leaving him ninth. Norris had knocked Lewis Hamilton out in Q2 with a last-minute improvement.

George Russell was third, the Mercedes driver beating Alex Albon by a tenth. The Williams car has looked strong this weekend with both Albon and Logan Sargeant getting into Q3. Russell’s third place was his best result in qualifying since starting the Australian Grand Prix in second at the end of March before the spring/easter break, and he has been struggling to match Hamilton in recent races.

Verstappen said, “It was a very tricky qualifying starting of course on the intermediates but of course the track surface is quite slippery with the new tarmac. I think we managed that quite well but also the end when we could go onto the slick tyres there was one dry line in some places and we had to risk it a bit but the last lap was very enjoyable.”

Norris added “I am happy, still. P2 was a good result I guess in these kind of conditions. The team has done a good job. It was a chaotic qualifying but another P2. Qualifying is always stressful despite the conditions. It is tough but I have always enjoyed these conditions.

Russell said “Absolutely really great session happy to be here in P3. Quali was one of my strengths at the start of the year and it’s just been going a little bit wrong recently, but it was great to have that break and I came I with a fresh set of ideas and good reset and we are in a great place tomorrow to fight for a podium.”

But Saturday was proving treacherous on track, despite Sargeant getting into Q3 for the first time was another casualty as he crashed on his first run after losing the rear.

Following FP3 it was clear that qualifying would require a mix of staying on the dry line, timing the lap to avoid the multiple red flags and taking advantage of conditions. For the Grand Prix tomorrow more rain is forecast and that will require teams to be able to react to situations as they unfold.

This weekend on paper shouldn’t suit Williams, they are traditionally good on high-speed tracks that require low downforce set-ups, the opposite of the corner-dominated layout at Zandvoort. But they have been close all weekend and Albon looked to use that well.

Fernando Alonso put his Aston Martin fifth, the two-time champion was nearly a tenth behind Albon and ahead of his fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz by a quarter of a second. Piastri was the last car running at the end of Q3 going eighth eight tenths ahead of Leclerc and Sargeant.

Sainz’s sixth place was damage limitation for Ferrari on a weekend in which they have struggled for pace, although he is under investigation for impeding Piastri in the first session.

Lance Stroll was fastest of those knocked out in Q2, he missed out on Q3 by half a hundredth of a second going eleventh ahead of Pierre Gasly. Hamilton was thirteenth two hundredths behind Gasly, the seven-time champion couldn’t improve on his last lap.

He had complained about blocking by Yuki Tsunoda on his last lap, but that only looked to be one factor, as he also admitted that he pushed to hard on his penultimate lap of a double hot lap, leading to him overheating the tyres and then Sainz improved going faster.

Hamilton had looked to match Russell’s pace in practice, but then come Q2 he was unable to repeat that form, he couldn’t repeat that last jump like he did at the end of Q1 to escape the drop zone. Mercedes and Hamilton were ultimately guilty of going too early with his final attempt at a flying lap, while team principal Toto Wolff complained that impeding was a significant factor in his driver’s exit.

He was a minute too early with the last attempt, effectively a sitting duck without time to get a cool lap in and start a fresh flying lap he was effectively out of qualifying by less than a tenth of a second.

Tsunoda was fourteenth the Alpha Tauri driver two hundredths ahead of the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg. Guanyu Zhou was half a tenth ahead of Esteban Ocon, Hulkenberg’s teammate Kevin Magnussen was eighteenth, and Kevin Magnussen nineteenth.

Liam Lawson will make his debut from last, the New Zealander brought into replace Daniel Ricciardo overnight after his crash in FP2 resulted in a broken wrist. Ricciardo has flown to Barcelona for expected surgery on Sunday under the care of Moto GP surgeon Xavier Mir.


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