F1 leader Verstappen takes pole position at Dutch GP for third straight year
ZANDVOORT, Netherlands (AP) — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen produced a typically strong final lap to take pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix on Saturday for the third straight year.
The runaway Formula One leader beat McLaren driver Lando Norris' leading time in qualifying on his way to clocking a 28th career pole. The two-time defending world champion will aim for a ninth straight win on Sunday — to equal former Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel's record from 2013 — and 11th overall of a crushingly dominant season.
“After five wins in a row, Seb texted me (and said) ‘Well done (for) what you’re doing at the moment, keep it up and you’re going to do it,’” Verstappen said. “Nine wins in a row is something very impressive, and I never thought I would be already on eight. If it’s possible tomorrow, of course I go for it but it’s not something I have in the back of my head.”
Verstappen has won the Dutch GP from pole in the past two years, and this time he will start ahead of Norris and Mercedes driver George Russell in third. Williams driver Alex Albon — Verstappen's former Red Bull teammate — continued his impressive form with fourth place.
Fernando Alonso will start fifth for Aston Martin followed by Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. and Red Bull's Sergio Perez — who was more than one second behind his teammate Verstappen — and McLaren's Oscar Piastri in eighth.
On a track difficult for overtaking, Verstappen is well poised to extend his 125-point lead over second-placed Perez in the overall standings.
The final part of qualifying, known as Q3, was delayed by two red flags after American driver Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams and Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari after going too wide.
Leclerc starts from ninth with Sargeant 10th on the grid to become the first American to qualify in the top 10 since 1993 when Michael Andretti qualified ninth at the Italian GP.
The rain stopped in time for qualifying but the seaside Zandvoort track was still wet and even Verstappen found it tough.
“I have no grip,” Verstappen said. “I’m spinning everything, everywhere.”
But it didn’t take him long to adapt as the 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) track started drying and he placed second in Q1, the first part of qualifying.
Leclerc twice went wide on his final run in Q1 and only just squeezed into Q2.
Lewis Hamilton had a dismal run and starts 13th. But he was impeded during qualifying by AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, whose three-place grid penalty following a stewards' decision dropped him to 17th on Sunday's grid.
Sargeant, who is in his debut season and under pressure to keep his seat next year, reached Q3 with a strong last lap. But he went off into gravel moments into the last session, bringing out a red flag and causing a delay as barriers were repaired.
“You never want to leave the team with a damaged car, and one that’s pretty damaged as well,” said Sargeant, who reached Q3 for the first time this season. “I touched the white line, which must have been wet, but there was no saving it. So I’m sorry to the team.”
Soon after the restart, Leclerc went far too wide on Turn 9 and slid off into the barriers, bringing out another red flag. It was a bad mistake from a driver with five F1 wins, 27 podiums and 20 poles.
“Sorry guys,” Leclerc said, before pensively watching the end of qualifying while sat on a chair near the track.
AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson starts from last place on his F1 debut after replacing the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Earlier Saturday, Verstappen topped the rainy third and final practice ahead of Russell and Perez.
Verstappen did a lawnmower impersonation a few minutes into it, going wide on the high-banking Turn 3 and rolling over a section of grass as he narrowly missed the barriers.
“It’s always easy to make a mistake when it’s quite slippery,” Verstappen said. “It’s definitely more challenging than most places we go to.”
A few moments later, a red flag came out after Haas driver Kevin Magnussen lost control and spun into the barriers.
A second red flag was produced when Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu slid backward and into gravel, and briefly a third near the end when Lawson lost control at the final corner and was stuck on track, facing the wrong way.
Lawson, a New Zealander, finished third in the F2 championship last year. He is AlphaTauri’s reserve driver and is racing after Ricciardo was injured in Friday's second practice.
It is unclear whether Ricciardo will have surgery and how long he will be out for. He appears certain to miss next weekend’s Italian GP at Monza where he won the last of his eight F1 races, back in 2021 for McLaren.
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