As Formula 1 headed back to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985, it could only be one driver that would be on pole position, Dutchman Max Verstappen. In a session that was interrupted by two red flags in quick succession there were a few surprises in amongst the usual suspects, along with a few drivers missing from the final session.
Q1 – Last lap traffic claims Perez and Vettel
The opening session of qualifying for the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix kicked off with usual banked times as teams recorded a benchmark and scoped out the track conditions. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas hit the track on the medium compound, a move that surprised many.
Six minutes in to the session and the crowd roared as the home hero Max Verstappen when fastest with a time of 1:10.036, whilst slower than his top practice times it set the tone for the session as the orange-clad fans buzzed with excitement. Hamilton on the medium compound set a time a tenth and a half slower that the Dutch driver.
As drivers started to record their first lap times of the session, Carlos Sainz Jr. showed no signs of his earlier crash during Free Practice 3, an incident that kept the Ferrari mechanics busy between sessions; The Spaniard set a time good enough for eighth fastest.
George Russell looked on impressive form, hoping to show that his pace in Belgium was no fluke, the Williams driver set the fifth fastest time of the session.
As the minutes counted down and cars fought for track space on the short circuit there was a close call for Sebastien Vettel as he headed in to the final corner. The two Haas cars of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher were arguing over track space with the Russian commenting after the session that he believed he should have had priority over the German due to Schumacher having advantage in the last race. The ensuing tussling saw Vettel arrive as the two Haas’s went side-by-side slowly in to the last corner, the German was forced to abort his lap, leaving him languishing down in seventeenth.
Sergio Perez also suffered with traffic in the closing minutes, losing out on getting a clear lap, finishing sixteenth and not progressing on to Q2.
Robert Kubica, who was a last-minute substitute for the COVID-positive Kimi Räikkönen finished eighteenth with limited track time. Schumacher and Mazepin rounded out the times in nineteenth and twentieth.
Q2 – Red flags bring early close to session
It was Verstappen again who stamped his authority in the opening laps of the session, setting a time of 1:09.071, the two Mercedes slotted in behind the dutch driver, seven-tenths down on old tyres.
Ten minutes into Q2 and Russell, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Nicholas Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda were the drivers in trouble, looking like they would head out of qualifying early.
With the session end closing in the two Williams cars headed out on track to try to secure their place in Q3, would Mr. Saturday manage another impressive performance? Unfortunately not; The British driver pushed a little too hard on his flying lap, heading in to the gravel trap in a cloud of dust, clipping the barrier and bringing out the red flags.
While the Brit would manage to get going again and return to the pits, he would be out of the session with the team airing on the side of caution due to potential damage on the right-rear of the car.
As the session got back underway it was the other Williams of Latifi that would bring out the red flags again, as the Canadian pushed on his wheel dropped off of the edge of the track, pitching him in to a high-speed spin, crashing heavily in to the barriers and bringing the session to a close.
Russel, Stroll, Norris, Latifi, Tsunoda missed out on the opportunity to progress to the final session.
Q3 – Who else but Max!
Following repairs to the barriers after Latifi’s crash the top-ten shootout got underway and Daniel Ricciardo led the field away from the pitlane. The nature of the short circuit saw a unusual sight of drivers trying to make space on track as the left the pits, normally this wouldn’t happen until the end of the lap.
Verstappen fired in a lap time of 1:08.923 to take provisional pole-position as the crowd erupted, Bottas slotted into second place, three tenths back while Hamilton could only manage third, a further half a tenth back. Gasly benefitted from a clear circuit and being one of the last cars out, setting a time good enough for fourth place on the provisional grid.
With three minutes to go drivers prepared to go for their final run, Verstappen was frustrated as cars stopped at the end of the pitlane trying to get track position and make the most of the ever-improving conditions. The frustration soon turned to joy as the Dutchman set a time of 1:08.885 to secure pole position.
Hamilton did his best, setting a purple sector time on his lap, unfortunately for the Brit it wasn’t good enough, losing out on pole position by just 0.38 seconds, while team-mate Bottas took third place alongside an impressive performance by Pierre Gasly in fourth.
Charles Leclerc secured a third-row start alongside team-mate Sainz, with Antonio Giovinazzi doing his best to hold on to his seat for 2022 with a seventh place time. Esteban Ocon got the better of his team-mate Fernando Alonso, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top-ten.
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:10.036||1:09.071||1:08.885||15|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:10.114||1:09.726||1:08.923||17|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:10.219||1:09.769||1:09.222||17|
|4||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:10.274||1:09.541||1:09.478||17|
|5||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||1:09.829||1:09.437||1:09.527||18|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||1:10.022||1:09.870||1:09.537||19|
|7||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen||1:10.050||1:10.033||1:09.590||17|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||1:10.179||1:09.919||1:09.933||17|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||1:10.435||1:10.020||1:09.956||13|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1:10.255||1:09.865||1:10.166||17|
|11||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:10.382||1:10.332||13|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:10.438||1:10.367||13|
|13||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1:10.489||1:10.406||13|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:10.093||1:11.161||16|
|15||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:10.462||1:11.314||15|
|16||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:10.530||9|
|17||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:10.731||7|
|18||88||Robert Jubica||POL||Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen||1:11.301||9|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:11.387||11|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||RUS||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:11.875||10|