Updated 26 Aug 2023 8:15 pm:
In the pursuit of pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix, McLaren’s Lando Norris injected energy into the competition, momentarily challenging Max Verstappen. The enthusiastic orange-clad crowd anticipated Verstappen’s dominance, but the papaya-liveried McLaren posed a threat at Zandvoort. However, Verstappen reasserted his authority with ease, securing pole position and prompting Norris to acknowledge the champion’s superior level of performance.
As the track transitioned from wet to dry conditions, Norris initially set the pace with a time of 1 minute 12.049 seconds, which Verstappen couldn’t match on his first quick lap. The anticipation grew as the session progressed, further heightened by a stoppage due to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc going off at turn nine. After the delay, Verstappen’s final flying lap demonstrated remarkable precision, with the Dutchman significantly improving his time. Despite Norris’s efforts, he couldn’t match Verstappen’s pace, trailing by over half a second.
Verstappen’s exceptional season, featuring eight poles and 10 wins, has established the expectation of his dominance. The rest of the grid perceives that Verstappen’s errors are the only opportunities for an upset, reflecting his formidable form and the rarity of any competitive comparison.
Norris’s pragmatic assessment doesn’t inspire optimism among F1’s stakeholders. While he plans to challenge Verstappen briefly during the race, he acknowledges Verstappen’s consistent excellence on Sundays. Verstappen’s record-breaking streak looms; a ninth consecutive victory would equal Sebastian Vettel’s achievement with Red Bull in 2013. Since the Miami GP in May, Verstappen hasn’t been defeated, and Red Bull remains unbeaten throughout the season.
Even Vettel acknowledged Verstappen’s prowess, having messaged him after his fifth consecutive win. Verstappen downplays the significance of record-breaking, expressing his focus on winning in the present rather than aiming to break records.
Verstappen’s success at his home grand prix, having won from pole in both races since 2021, cements his position as the likely victor for this moment and the entire season. With a 125-point lead over teammate Sergio Pérez, Verstappen could potentially secure the title as early as the Japanese Grand Prix in September.
However, disappointment struck Lewis Hamilton as he was eliminated in Q2, starting in 13th place due to overheated tires during his final laps. Despite this setback, Hamilton remains hopeful of making progress during the race. His teammate, George Russell, secured third place, and Alex Albon achieved an impressive fourth for Williams.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished fifth, Pérez claimed seventh for Red Bull, and Oscar Piastri secured eighth. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc landed in sixth and ninth positions, respectively, while Logan Sargeant finished tenth.
Other results included Lance Stroll in 11th for Aston Martin, Pierre Gasly in 12th for Alpine, Yuki Tsunoda in 14th for AlphaTauri, and Nico Hülkenberg in 15th for Haas. Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas claimed 16th and 19th positions for Alfa Romeo. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen finished 17th and 18th, respectively.
Notably, 21-year-old Liam Lawson, standing in for Daniel Ricciardo after the latter’s accident, made a commendable debut for AlphaTauri, finishing 20th despite driving an unfamiliar car. Lawson, a reserve driver for Red Bull and AlphaTauri, is concurrently participating in Super Formula in Japan, having previously engaged in F1 practice sessions.