Max Verstappen delivered the goods in front of 105,000 orange-clad fans by putting his Red Bull on pole position for the Dutch Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s preparations for qualifying were dealt a blow when he missed a large chunk of practice on Friday following a gearbox failure.
But the world champion came up with a lap when it mattered most to see off Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by just 0.021 seconds and claim the 17th pole of his career on his seemingly unstoppable march towards the championship.
Carlos Sainz took third, one place ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who spun in the closing stages, finished fifth. George Russell was sixth.
Verstappen headed into qualifying having failed to top any of the three practice sessions in Zandvoort, the coastal town 25 miles west of Amsterdam.
But the championship leader, 93 points clear of Perez and 98 points ahead of Leclerc in the standings, took pole with his final throw of the dice to the delight of his home crowd. A jubilant Verstappen, who has nine wins from 14 races this year, said afterwards: “It is unbelievable, especially after yesterday. We had a difficult day but we worked really well overnight with the whole team to turn it around.
“It was a special qualifying. We had to change the car around quite a bit and this morning was about learning and trying to fine-tune the car. I am really happy with Q3.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team are in much better shape than a week ago in Belgium with the short, twisty Zandvoort track better suited to their machinery.
But both Hamilton and Russell failed to improve with their final runs after Perez’s late spin saw the yellow flags deployed in the final sector.
Hamilton finished three tenths back, with Russell eight tenths slower than Verstappen.