Lando Norris of McLaren injected an impressive burst of energy into the battle for pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix. However, Max Verstappen swiftly reasserted his dominance on home turf. Despite the anticipation of orange-clad fans, Norris briefly threatened an upset in his papaya-liveried McLaren at Zandvoort. But Verstappen, unfazed, showcased his prowess with another commanding lap to secure pole position, leading Norris to acknowledge that the world champion was operating on a different level.
The weather conditions transitioned from a wet track at the start to a clear and dry line by the final session, necessitating the use of slick tires. With the worst conditions behind them, the competition narrowed down to a direct duel on the demanding track. Norris initially set the pace with a 1 minute 12.049-second lap, a mark that Verstappen couldn’t match on his initial quick lap.
Was Verstappen finally encountering a worthy opponent on his home turf? Suspense intensified when the session came to a halt due to Charles Leclerc of Ferrari going off track at turn nine.
Following the interruption, one last flying lap would determine the outcome. Verstappen‘s performance was nothing short of spectacular. It was as if every previous lap had merely been practice for this ultimate display of precision. He excelled in sectors one and two, shaving a full second and a half off his previous time. Despite valiant efforts of Lando Norris, the British driver couldn’t keep up. Verstappen’s 1:10.567 lap time left Norris trailing by over half a second. The world champion’s run was utterly dominant.
After securing eight poles and ten wins this season, there’s a prevailing sentiment among the rest of the grid that Verstappen’s success is now the anticipated outcome. Any upset would likely result from a Verstappen mistake. Such is his current form that the term “hen’s teeth” comparison is being thrown around.
Realistic assessment of Lando Norris in the race may not be the most exciting prospect for F1‘s owners. “I will challenge him for probably two laps and then he will drive away,” he admitted. “I’m going to give it a try in the race but Max is always on another level when it comes to a Sunday.”
Setting a New Record
Without a doubt, Verstappen is on the cusp of extending his impressive streak and possibly setting a new record. A victory would mark his ninth consecutive win this season, matching Sebastian Vettel’s achievement with Red Bull in 2013. Verstappen hasn’t been defeated since the Miami GP in early May. Meanwhile, Red Bull remains unbeaten this season and is in contention for a complete sweep of victories.
Interestingly, Vettel has already reached out to wish Verstappen success, acknowledging his near-invincibility. Verstappen shared, “After five wins in a row, Seb texted me and said: ‘Well done, keep it up, you are going to do it.’ Nine wins in a row is very impressive and I never thought I would even win eight.”
Verstappen, however, remains focused on the present and the joy of winning rather than breaking records. While he has an incredible track record at his home grand prix, having won from pole in both races since 2021, Verstappen is not fixated on record-breaking. At this moment, it appears that victory is almost certainly his, both for the race and the season. He currently leads his teammate, Sergio Pérez, by a significant 125 points and could potentially secure the title as early as the Japanese Grand Prix at the end of September.