Max Verstappen: Pole position ‘unbelievable’ after ‘difficult’ Friday

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen held aloft by kickboxer Rico Verhoeven. Zandvoort September 2022.

Max Verstappen held aloft by kickboxer Rico Verhoeven after Dutch Grand Prix qualifying. Zandvoort September 2022.

Max Verstappen described his second consecutive Dutch Grand Prix pole position lap as “insane” after reversing his Friday fortunes.

The World Champion, 93 points clear in the quest to retain his title, had left his home fans quiet at Zandvoort with a troubled free practice day.

A gearbox problem had limited Verstappen to only seven minutes of running in FP1, while in FP2 he was only eighth fastest with his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez even further down in 12th.

But a new day brought a transformation in Red Bull’s performance as the Dutchman wowed the orange-clad crowd by coming out on top in a thrilling duel for pole position with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, prevailing by just 0.021sec.

Now the 24-year-old is firmly on course to follow up his 2021 triumph in his home event and take another big step towards retaining the crown.

“Unbelievable,” said Verstappen in his parc ferme interview. “Especially after yesterday as well – we had a difficult day.

“I think we worked really well overnight with the whole team to turn it around and today we had a quick race car again, but it was very close and a qualifying lap around here is insane.”

Asked about the changes the team had made overnight, Verstappen replied: “We changed a lot because yesterday was a bit rushed in FP2 to get the car together, but today it was again enjoyable to drive.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described Verstappen’s final Q3 run, which snatched pole position from Leclerc, as “perfect”.

“We were on the back foot yesterday and so it was important to recover and what impressed me so much with that qualifying was his lap on the scrubbed tyres in Q2 saved him a set of tyres for tomorrow,” said Horner on Sky F1.

“Charles put down a hell of a marker with that first run in Q3 and massive, massive pressure to go and deliver a lap – and he did it. He did it all in sector two really and a really perfect lap and a tiny margin, but a vital one for tomorrow’s race.

“You see sportsmen at the top of their game when the big pressure moments come and that was one of those. Under an expectant crowd it’s so easy to make a mistake or just over-push, over-drive, and he responded in the best possible way – very, very calmly and nailed a perfect lap.”