Max Verstappen takes Dutch F1 GP pole as fan is ejected for tossing a flare on the track

Verstappen Dutch flare
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Max Verstappen produced a brilliant final lap to take pole position for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix just ahead of Charles Leclerc, but the Saturday session was marred by a flare interrupting the action.

The Red Bull driver edged Leclerc’s Ferrari by just 0.021 seconds to huge roars from Verstappen’s Orange Army of fans.

But the session was interrupted earlier when a flare was thrown onto the track. Governing body FIA said the culprit was removed from the stands by security.

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“It’s just very silly to do. I mean, to hold flares it’s nice, but there’s a limit to how much. But to throw it on the track is just stupid,” Verstappen said. “Just don’t do that, it’s no good for anyone. You get thrown out so you can’t see the race and for us the session is stopped because it’s dangerous when there’s stuff on the track.”

The widespread use of flares from Verstappen’s fans has been a concern at some races, particularly at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in July and at last weekend’s Belgian GP – both packed with Verstappen supporters.

Leclerc and his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. also condemned throwing flares on track.

“It’s dangerous, so don’t do these type of things. It’s good that there was a reaction (from) the security guys,” Leclerc said. “Obviously if a car is passing at that time it can create unnecessary risks so hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Sainz, who qualified in third, said there should be better control over when flares are used.

“It’s also important to let the fans know when it’s possible to use the flares and when it’s not. It was good that on the in-lap when Max took pole they used them, but not use them in the middle of the race or Lap 1 when we’re in the middle of fights,” Sainz said. “At 300 kph (186 miles per hour) with these cars you don’t want any kind of distraction from smoke. Hopefully the organization can do a good job in warning when it’s the time to use them, and when it’s not.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was fourth with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez qualifying in fifth.

Leclerc had the leading time and went even faster on his final run to pressure Verstappen. But a brilliant middle sector helped the Dutchman clinch his fourth pole of the season.

“It was a special qualifying, especially after yesterday which was tough.” Verstappen said. “We had to change the car.”

Moments after Verstappen crossed the line, Perez spun off the track to bring a yellow flag for the closing seconds.

A jubilant Verstappen was lifted up in the air rather easily by Dutch kickboxer Rico Verhoeven as the orange hordes cheered Verstappen’s second straight pole here.

“Yeah, I am enjoying it,” Verstappen said. “It’s just great to see the atmosphere, everyone’s having fun, enjoying themselves.”

Verstappen was quickest in the first qualifying run, known as Q1, just ahead of Hamilton.

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) were among the five drivers eliminated. Vettel looked good for Q2 but went wide into gravel near the end of his final run.

“There was dust on the track, which I collected with the left side,” Vettel said. “There’s not much I could have done differently.”

The red flag came out at the start of Q2 after the flare was thrown and the session was halted for several minutes. But Alex Albon, the only driver on track at that point, also complained about “tons of pigeons” around the circuit located next to the beach.

Sainz topped Q2 from the competitive Mercedes of George Russell, but two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso fluffed his last run and went out.

Russell starts from sixth on the grid ahead of Lando Norris (McLaren) and Mick Schumacher (Haas).

Verstappen won here last year, in front of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and his legions of orange-clad fans at the seaside track outside Amsterdam.

Leclerc led Saturday’s third and final practice by just .066 seconds from Russell and .161 ahead of Verstappen.

Leclerc is hopeful Ferrari can get “up close” to Verstappen in Sunday’s race while Sainz thinks Mercedes “are going to be as quick” as Ferrari.

After struggling in Belgium on the long Spa track, Mercedes looked far more comfortable on the high-banking Zandvoort track, where a gearbox failure limited Verstappen to seven laps in Friday’s first practice. He placed eighth in the second run.

Victory on Sunday would be a fourth straight for Verstappen and 10th of the season – his tally from last year – and push him closer to a second straight world title.

He leads Perez by 93 points and Leclerc by 98 with the Italian GP coming up next at Monza and only six races after that.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s


After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

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Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points

The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage