Verstappen denies Leclerc pole position as Dutch Grand Prix home favourite pips Ferrari at the post

·3-min read

Max Verstappen snatched an "unbelievable" pole position for his home Dutch Grand Prix as the Formula One championship leader put on another crowd-pleasing show.

On the eve of the Zandvoort race, Verstappen banished Friday's gearbox failure and put himself in a strong position to push for a repeat of last year's win at the track, edging out Charles Leclerc by 0.021 seconds.

Ferrari's Leclerc joins him on the front row, and the Scuderia's Carlos Sainz took third, ahead of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez and the Silver Arrow of George Russell on row three.

Verstappen beat Leclerc's time late in the session, and when Red Bull team-mate Perez crashed on his final lap, that brought out the yellow flags, crushing the hopes of improvement for those on a flying lap.

Asked what it felt like to be on pole, just like he was last year, Verstappen said: "Unbelievable! Especially after yesterday, we had a difficult day but worked really well overnight with the whole team to turn it around.

"A qualifying lap around here is insane. We changed a lot. Yesterday was a bit rushed in FP2 to get the car together, but today the car was enjoyable to drive."

Leclerc had been the fastest in practice on Saturday, and he put himself in the mix to take pole before Verstappen saved his best for late on.

Already 98 points behind title front-runner Verstappen, Leclerc is reasonably doubting his chances of bridging that gap in the remaining races.

He felt Ferrari would have the pace to contend for top spot on the podium this week though, and nothing he experienced on Saturday changed that viewpoint.

Leclerc said: "It was very, very close. Max did a great lap in the end, and our car was getting better and better through qualifying.

"In the beginning I was scared because Max was much quicker than us on used tyres. But in Q3 the car came more together and I did the lap which was enough for P2. Tomorrow is the race and we'll give it our all.

"We are much stronger here compared to last weekend, and that's good to see. Our race pace looks quite strong. It's going to be close with the Red Bulls. We just need to do a great start and then we'll see."

Sainz described his own performance as being "on the limit".

"It wasn't an easy qualification but in the end we did a decent job. It is very tough out there," Sainz said. "The track is especially demanding on the tyres. We have a lot of overheating during the lap, even in the long runs, a lot of degradation.

"Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day. There's going to be a lot going on, even if it's a difficult track to overtake, and there's going to be many options with strategies."

The McLaren of Lando Norris and Haas of Mick Schumacher start from the fourth row, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda's AlphaTauri and Lance Stroll's Aston Martin.

After making it through to Q3, Stroll was unable to put in a lap time due to a technical problem.

QUALIFYING TIMES

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 1:10.342
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.021s
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.092s
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.306s
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.735s
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +0.805s
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.832
8. Mick Schumacher (Haas) +1.100s
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +2.214
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)