Max Verstappen takes pole for Dutch GP just ahead of Lewis Hamilton in qualifying

Max Verstappen Dutch pole
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
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ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Netherlands native Max Verstappen sent his “Orange Army” of fans into rapturous approval after taking a brilliant pole position for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix at Circuit Vandvoort.

The Red Bull driver’s final lap nipped seven-time series champion Lewis Hamilton by 0.038 seconds and his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, by 0.337 seconds.

Verstappen’s orange-clad fans stood and roared Saturday when he went past the main grandstand area and sealed his season-leading seventh pole of the season, four more than F1 record holder Hamilton.

“Unbelievable, we were just flying today,” Verstappen said. “It’s an amazing feeling to get pole position here. The crowd is incredible.”

Verstappen led Bottas by 0.3 seconds and Hamilton by 0.35 after their first runs. They all improved on their second stints and Verstappen did enough for his 10th career pole.

“Pole position, home Grand Prix,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after Verstappen’s sixth pole in the past seven races. “Really proud of you.”

F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands - Qualifying
Max Verstappen salutes his home fans after winning the pole position for the F1 Dutch Grand Prix at Circuit Zandvoort (Dan Mullan/Getty Images).

Hamilton missed out on a record-extending 102nd career pole but leads Verstappen by three points in the standings as he aims for a record-extending 100th F1 win on Sunday.

“It’s a difficult circuit to overtake,” Hamilton said. “Strategy will come into it.”

Hamilton was thrilled by the speedy 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) Zandvoort with its high-banking corners.

“What a place for us to be racing,” Hamilton said. “It’s a great track, I like the old school circuits better. This one’s been phenomenal to drive.”

Having jeered Hamilton at the previous three races after he sent Verstappen crashing out of the British GP with a risky overtaking move, the Dutch fans seemed to finally have gotten over it and clapped after he spoke.

“First, I want to say a big thank you to all the orange fans, the Dutch fans, what an amazing venue, what an amazing track,” Hamilton said. “Max did an amazing lap. I was so close. Hopefully, the track provides a great race.”

F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands - Qualifying
Dutch GP fans show their support of home favorite Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing fans during qualifying at Circuit Zandvoort (Peter Fox/Getty Images).

In the first part of qualifying, known as Q1, Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. were 1-2 with Verstappen third. His Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, the four-time F1 champion, were among the five drivers eliminated after being stuck behind slower cars.

Verstappen’s legions of fans cheered again when he finished top of Q2 ahead of Leclerc. A red flag came out a few minutes before the end of that session when Williams driver George Russell – who is touted to drive for Mercedes next year – slid backward off the track and into some gravel.

“I just pushed it too hard in the last corner,” Russell told his team on radio. “Sorry about that.”

Moments after Q2 restarted, another red flag came out when Williams driver Nicholas Latifi lost control and slammed into the tire wall.

Earlier, Verstappen had the fastest time in the third and final practice ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.

Ferrari just repaired Sainz Jr.’s car in time for qualifying after he slid sideways off track on the high-speed Turn 3 and into the crash barriers about 20 minutes into the session.

P3 saw McLaren driver Lando Norris and Haas driver Mick Schumacher go off into the gravel, while Leclerc took evasive action late on when he swerved sharply left to avoid two cars in front of him.

Robert Kubica qualified 18th in place of Kimi Raikkonen, who was sidelined by COVID-19.

The race returned to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985, when Zandvoort last hosted the race.

About 65,000 fans packed into stands that were at 67% capacity because of coronavirus restrictions. All had to show a corona pass for admittance.