F1 – Dutch GP – Qualifying
Hallo, MiniFans! We’re back in Zandvoort’s banked corners for a qualifying session that might not allow Verstappen to continue his streak, as Ferrari has shown its strength throughout the weekend, and Russell isn’t backing down either, while the current world champion had some problems on Friday. Ready for the show?
The completely orange clad grandstands welcomed the start of a very sunny Q1, in which drivers needed a bit of a nudge to start coming out. As usual, it was the backmarkers that were the first ones on the tarmac, with Haas settling on top until the cars more settled in the midfield came along, but only Zhou managed to beat their times in the first handful of minutes. Soon enough, Verstappen topped the sheets, managing an almost half a second gap to Sainz, in which both Mercedes managed to settle themselves, as well as Alonso barely a couple of minutes later.
However, the second Red Bull wasn’t feeling as comfortable as Verstappen, with a lap time that forced him to go out a second time, alongside Leclerc, but both easily achieved lap times that fulfilled the expectations. With the track’s improvement in the last few minutes, times lowered so much that barely half a second encompassed the top 15 that would go on to Q2, but not much else changed from the rest of the session. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Bottas (P16), Magnussen (P17), Ricciardo (P18), Vettel (P19) and Latifi (P20).
Q2 started off with a bang, and quite literally. An orange flare, an element that was supposedly not allowed on site, had landed on the track and the session was very briefly red flagged in order to get rid of it. Once it was taken care of, Verstappen flew to the top of the timing tower without missing a single beat, while Ferrari couldn’t manage quite as fast laps, basically ensuring they’d need to go out a second time.
To counteract his teammate, Schumacher managed to squeeze into Q3 for the fourth time, but all eyes were still on Verstappen, the only driver who didn’t go out for a second time, and on Russell, who seemed to be postulating himself as the biggest rival for pole position in the world champion’s home race. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Gasly (P11), Ocon (P12), Alonso (P13), Zhou (P14), Albon (P15).
It was precisely Verstappen who kicked off Q3, to the delight of the orange army populating the grandstands, and having two fresh sets of tyres meant he could push from the very beginning, locking down an incredible lap time in his first attempt. However, Leclerc took advantage of the small mistake that the Red Bull driver had done, and stole the provisional pole at the end of his first stint.
Another flare prompted another flag, this time yellow in colour, as it was easily retrievable, and the fight for pole went down to the wire and the waved checkered flag. Leclerc improved his time ever so slightly, but Verstappen never backs down from a fight and barely two hundredths of a second meant that the Dutch driver would clinch the first spot on the grid, just as his teammate made a mistake and the yellow flag that followed his spin meant that neither Mercedes could improve, leaving the top three steps to Verstappen and the two Ferraris.
After three free practices in which the results seemed to indicate Ferrari was the biggest contender for pole position, maybe with a bit of a threat by Russell, Verstappen once again showed why he can never be written off for a pole or a win. The Dutch drivers seems to be apparently unbeatable in his home track, but it is the race that will decide whether he gets crowned again.