DRS glitch threatened Verstappen’s home GP pole

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen during qualifying for the Dutch GP. Zandvoort September 2021.

Max Verstappen's Red Bull during qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort September 2021.

Christian Horner has confirmed Max Verstappen’s pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix was such a close call only because of a DRS issue.

The Red Bull driver, roared on by a large crowd of orange-clad home fans, clung on to top spot for the first F1 race at Zandvoort for 36 years under a strong late attack from Lewis Hamilton.

Ultimately, there was only 0.038sec between the two World Championship rivals, even though Verstappen had looked to be well on top throughout qualifying.

But the Red Bull team principal revealed a problem with the DRS had cost the RB16B time that could have proven very costly in the quest to start at the front of the grid.

“We saw he lost a lot of straight-line speed just down the last straight and it looks like the DRS hasn’t opened properly,” Horner told Sky F1.

“He’s probably given away a tenth, tenth-and-a-half [of a second]. But an amazing performance by him under massive pressure, so really happy with that.”

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Verstappen’s rise to being one of the top Formula 1 performers was among the driving forces in the Dutch Grand Prix’s restoration to the calendar, and the vast majority of the 70,000 fans allowed into Zandvoort on race day will be supporting him.

Horner is impressed with how the 23-year-old has coped with the pressure on his shoulders, especially being in the midst of a head-to-head title battle with a much more experienced rival in Hamilton.

“It’s remarkable, it’s almost as if that lot out there isn’t going on because he doesn’t seem to feel it,” added Horner.

“He was watching the DTM race before qualy, he’s very relaxed, he’s just treating it like a normal race weekend. On the other side of the fence it’s going bananas!

“But what an amazing atmosphere and for sure every driver feeds off a home crowd.

“We’ve seen him mature over the years and you forget how young he still is, but he’s got a lot of racing experience now behind him and I think the way he deals with pressure has been outstanding in recent years.

“He’s done a great job, he’s in the best place to start tomorrow’s race, it’s a tough race to overtake at, so the first part of the job is done.”