Verstappen is ‘under pressure to deliver’ pole

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen Red Bull Dutch fans. Netherlands September 2021

Max Verstappen driving his Red Bull RB16b in front of a sea of orange with his Dutch fans. Netherlands September 2021

Max Verstappen will need to find something extra ahead of qualifying for the Dutch GP with Helmut Marko saying he’s “under pressure to deliver” for his fans.

The good news is that Verstappen reckons he has that pace in hand, his aborted lap in FP1, the result of red flags for Nikita Mazepin’s spin, would have been good enough to put him P1.

Finishing Friday’s second practice fifth fastest, the Red Bull driver told the media that his time was “not very representative because my lap was on a used set [of tyres], and the lap I had to abort, I think, would have been good enough for first.”

Verstappen was over three-tenths off the pace of Carlos Sainz in FP2.

“But,” as Marko told Auto Motor und Sport, “we were two to four tenths ahead of the others in the long run. And Perez is also good in the endurance runs.”

A quick look at the day’s timesheet did not tell the full story as on the long-run averages Verstappen was 0.3s faster than Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who was also running the soft tyres.

The Dutchman also looked to be faster on the medium tyres.

Racing in front of a sea of orange, a partisan crowd that has come out to support their local lad, the Red Bull advisor admits the pressure is on for Verstappen ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.

“Take a look at what’s going on in the stands and in the city,” he said. “The fans expect Max to take pole position.

“Anything else would be a disappointment for them, and Max is under pressure to deliver.”

Check out all the latest Max Verstappen merchandise via the official Formula 1 store

Red Bull, though, could face a threat from an unexpected rival in Ferrari.

The Scuderia’s drivers were 1-2 on Friday with Sainz topping the timesheets with a 1:10.902, putting him 0.154s on Charles Leclerc.

Marko reckons that was a fuel thin.

“The Ferraris always run on less fuel on Friday,” he said, “and we are stronger in the long run.”

But team boss Christian Horner admits he has some concerns.

“Ferrari can be dangerous for us here,” said the Brit. “We have known since Monte Carlo how good they can be on this type of track.”