Verstappen says technical issues prevented pole lap being even faster around ‘incredible’ Zandvoort
The Zandvoort crowd erupted after their home hero Max Verstappen beat title rival Lewis Hamilton to pole position for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix by just 0.038s. It was a tight margin, with Verstappen suggesting after the session that it was tighter than it had needed to be, with the Red Bull driver reckoning that upshift issues and a suspected DRS problem cost him lap time.
Verstappen had set the early benchmark in Q3 with a lap of 1m 08.923s around the 2.6-mile Zandvoort circuit, returning to the F1 calendar for the first time since 1985. He would then slightly improve to a 1m 08.885s on his final run as Hamilton came up 0.038s short, sending the Dutch fans into ecstasy.
And after securing his seventh pole position of the season, Verstappen was asked why he’d been so confident around the Dutch track so far this weekend.
“I didn't do any simulator sessions before I got here, so I guess that was the key!” he joked. “Normally I do quite a bit of simulator work. I also didn't do it for Spa, and I have to say that out of the box, the car was actually quite okay, so I guess that's the secret.
“It's an amazing feeling of course to get pole position here,” he added. “It was already a lot of fun I have to say from FP1, to drive this track, but qualifying of course, when you go very low fuel, it was incredible, especially Sector 2 was really enjoyable to drive.
“And then of course, driving at home with all these fans that were of course going crazy every time I was crossing the line. So to have a pole position here is of course very satisfying.”
Pole may have been Verstappen’s. But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told the media after qualifying that Verstappen had suffered a suspected DRS failure on his final lap, which meant he didn’t have that function available to him on his final lap – a fact that Verstappen was unaware of when he faced the media in the post-qualifying press conference.
“Is that so? I don't know!” he replied when the question of how the loss of DRS might have affected his lap time was put to him. “But for me, the problems started earlier, out of Turn 3 it's quite bumpy and I had a double shift. I was two-tenths up on my lap and then I lost, like, one and a half tenths all the way to Turn 7.
“Then you also use more energy, because you're a gear higher, because I derated as well. So I don't know, I need to check but I was not aware that my DRS was closed to the line. That's not very lovely.”
Verstappen’s chief issue now are the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas starting just behind him in P2 and P3 around the tight confines of Zandvoort – while team mate Sergio Perez is set to start P16, having made a shock Q1 exit, the crestfallen Mexican explaining to the media: “I think we had a tremendous car. We had the pace to lock the front row today and that’s why it hurts so much as a team.
“We just have to see what we’ve done wrong… It’s such a big shame because we had such a fantastic car out there today that I just don’t know what to say now.”