Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is delighted to have claimed pole position after a “great” Qualifying session for 2021 Dutch Grand Prix.
Having won in his birth country last weekend following a farcical washed-out Belgian Grand Prix, Verstappen came into this race with a three-point deficit over Championship leader, Lewis Hamilton yet blitzed Saturday’s action to claim pole position in front of his home fans for the first Dutch GP since 1985.
Reflecting on what it felt like to claim pole position in front of a home crowd after opting to race under Dutch license rather than Belgium, Verstappen said: “It feels great to be on pole position and of course it makes it even more satisfying when it’s at one of your home races.”
The Dutchman also praised Red Bull for improving the car despite noting how “tricky” Qualifying was with two red flags after spins for both Williams cars of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi in Q2.
Zandvoort though has undergone various changes since he last raced at the Dutch track in 2014 Zandvoort Masters, which he won on that occasion for Motopark.
Verstappen though was impressed at how “just incredible” it is to drive around the modern layout, especially when on low fuel through the second sector and various banked corners whilst electric atmosphere amongst home fans add to the “nice sensation” of the “enjoyable” circuit.
The 23 year-old also noted that Zandvoort reminds him of Suzuka, adding: “It’s an old school track that is flowing and fast like Suzuka where you really feel the grip of a Formula One car, it’s challenging an I enjoy tracks like this.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s race, Verstappen admitted that he believes that the start is likely to prove “key” to his race, due to the overtaking difficulty whilst also needing to look after his tyres due to the likelihood for a Safety Car at any moment following six red flags so far this weekend.
Team Principal, Christian Horner echoed Verstappen’s thoughts, commenting: “Looking at the start, we have the two Mercedes directly behind Max so they’ll be able to split their options so it’s important we just get our heads down and focus on our own race.”
As for the strategic threat of Mercedes as Hamilton lines up second and Valtteri Bottas starts third on the grid, Verstappen believes that they will be “strong” and make the race less “straightforward as it seems.”
Verstappen will also have to make do without teammate, Sergio Perez at the front to distract the Mercedes pair, after a disastrous Q1 saw the Mexican qualify 16th on the grid as he missed the line to start his final flier ahead of the checkered flag due to slow cars building gaps for their own flying laps.
Speaking on his “unlucky” misfortunes in Qualifying post-session, Perez said: “I’m really disappointed today because we had such a fantastic car going into Qualifying.
“We were making great progress and could have had two cars up there tomorrow, possibly locking out the front row and so we really didn’t expect to be in this position.”