Max Verstappen delighted his home crowd by taking pole position for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
In an incident-packed wet-dry session, the unstoppable double world champion delivered a crushing lap to finish half-a-second clear of Lando Norris, who qualified second for McLaren.
George Russell will start from third place for Mercedes with the impressive Alex Albon fourth. Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2 and will line up from only 13th spot in Zandvoort.
“It was a very tricky qualifying session,” said Verstappen. “It was all about putting your laps in and staying out of trouble and we managed that quite well.
“The pressure is always there to perform but when you pull it off it’s incredible.”
Q3 was red-flagged twice. First when Logan Sargeant crashed out in his Williams. The American rookie lost control of his machine on the entry to Turn 2, sending him into the gravel and then the tyre wall.
Sargeant, 22, emerged unscathed from the accident but the force of the impact contributed to significant damage on the front of his machine.
The running was suspended for 20 minutes as Sargeant’s stricken Williams was removed and the barriers were repaired.
A dry line had emerged, and it was Norris who put his McLaren at the top of the order before Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari into the wall.
Leclerc carried too much speed into the ninth bend and ran onto the grass and then into the Armco.
A six-minute stoppage followed with just four minutes and five seconds left on the clock, with Norris hoping to hold on to claim only his second career pole.
Norris said: “Every now and then you hope Max makes a mistake, but he doesn’t, so frustrating in a little way. But I’m very happy. The team did a good job and I will take P2.”
Russell, seven tenths behind Verstappen, said: “We are in a great place tomorrow to battle for a podium.
“I’m sure Max will have his Sunday drive and be waving to the crowd but I hope to have a good fight with Lando, Alex and the rest of the boys.”
But Verstappen delivered an emphatic answer by racing to top spot with his final lap to huge roars from the Orange Army. On Sunday, he will bid to match Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive wins.
Hamilton revealed in the build-up to Sunday’s race that his goal for the second half of the season was to take runner-up spot in the championship.
But on Formula One’s return from its summer slumber, the seven-time world champion – who is currently fourth in the standings – will start way down the order following a disappointing qualifying session.
The British driver, 38, appeared to be impeded by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda on his final run in Q2 and failed to deliver a time speedy enough to progress.
The stewards have noted the incident, but Hamilton, 41 points adrift of Sergio Perez, who is currently best of the rest behind team-mate Verstappen, now faces an uphill task to salvage a respectable result.
Fernando Alonso qualified fifth for Aston Martin, one place ahead of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, with Perez only seventh, 1.3 seconds behind team-mate Verstappen.
Liam Lawson has been handed his F1 debut here as a substitute for Daniel Ricciardo.
The 34-year-old Australian suffered a broken left wrist in a practice crash on Friday and has been ruled out of this weekend’s race with the prospect of missing further rounds, too.
In Ricciardo’s absence, New Zealander Lawson, 21, will start his maiden F1 race from 20th and last.