In front of over 100,000 spectators in Zandvoort, Netherlands, Max Verstappen took pole position over drivers championship rival Charles Leclerc in an exhilarating fashion.
On his final attempt in the third qualifying session, Verstappen bested Leclerc’s time by just over two-hundredths of a second, claiming his seventeenth career pole position and starting tomorrow’s race in first.
His victory in qualifying comes on the heels of a rough start to the Dutch Grand Prix weekend for the reigning drivers champion. Verstappen’s first practice session on Friday was cut short due to an issue with his gearbox, which prompted Red Bull mechanics to scramble to get the car ready for the second practice and beyond.
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz continued his consistent performance this year and took third in qualifying, finishing his best lap nine-hundredths off Verstappen.
The gap between the top three and the rest of the field was significant, with Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes finishing fourth at three-tenths off the lead and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finishing fifth seven-tenths slower.
While the Ferraris once again performed similarly, the increasing gap between the Red Bulls has become more obvious as the season has gone on.
In an interview during qualifying, Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto went out of his way to highlight the performance gap between Verstappen and Perez, stating, “Max, not a surprise, very fast. Not the two Red Bull, only Max.”
Perez, second in the drivers championship, has sought more freedom from Red Bull to develop his car more to his liking for the remainder of the season.
As Red Bull’s clear number one driver, Verstappen has dictated the evolution of the RB18 car throughout the season to suit his driving style, forcing Perez to adapt outside his comfort zone.
“Certainly the car has become quicker from the beginning of the season, but I’m not as comfortable as I was in the beginning,” Perez recently explained to the media.
Rounding out the top ten for the starting grid tomorrow are George Russell, Lando Norris, Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda, and Lance Stroll in P6 through 10, respectively. The top ten qualifying finishes for Schumacher, Tsunoda, and Stroll all mark bright spots for their season thus far.
Norris continued to perform well in the McLaren while his current teammate’s struggles were once again on display.
With the official signing of Oscar Piastri and the premature end of his time at McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo was looking for a good result this weekend to showcase his talent to other teams, but he fell far short of expectations. Ricciardo finished qualifying in eighteenth and did not advance out of the first round.
While Ricciardo is on through the end of the season, McLaren CEO Zak Brown hinted that a change might happen sooner. When asked if Piastri would see a McLaren drive before the end of this current season, Brown responded, “You’ve got to let drivers move on and drive the cars.”
The Dutch Grand Prix kicks off tomorrow, Sunday, September 4, at 8 am CST.