Max Verstappen has revealed Sebastian Vettel told him he will break his record of nine consecutive victories after the home favourite put his Red Bull on pole position for Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
The unstoppable Verstappen will equal four-time world champion Vettel’s streak from 2013 if he takes the chequered flag in front of 105,000 expectant fans.
Verstappen starts his quest from the front after he topped a chaotic wet-dry qualifying session in Zandvoort. Verstappen finished nearly six tenths clear of second-placed Lando Norris with a mighty final lap.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 26, 2023
George Russell qualified third for Mercedes, one place ahead of Alex Albon – the London-born driver continuing his impressive campaign with Williams. Lewis Hamilton lines up only 13th after he was surprisingly eliminated in Q2.
Verstappen dominated the opening half of the season, taking 10 victories from the 12 rounds so far, and he has emerged from the sport’s summer break still as the man to beat.
He last failed to win in Azerbaijan on April 30, and it will be a major surprise if his crushing run comes to a halt in front of his orange-clad army.
“After five wins in a row, Seb texted me to say, ‘well done with what you are doing at the moment, keep it up, you are going to get the record’,” said Verstappen following his eighth pole of the campaign.
“I was like, ‘that’s nine wins in a row, and that is something very impressive’. I never thought I would be able to get to eight. If it is possible tomorrow of course I go for it.
“But it is not something that is in the back of my head. I am not in this sport to try and break records. I am just here to win in the moment.”
Verstappen is in a league of his own as he closes in on a hat-trick of titles.
But it has been suggested that his reign – akin to Michael Schumacher’s emphatic dominance for Ferrari at the turn of the century – has been a turn-off for the sport’s booming fanbase.
“It is clear that unpredictability is what makes the sport exciting,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Not an ideal quali for Lewis, but race day is a new day and you know he’ll push every lap. 💪 pic.twitter.com/dtUbJYbAqs
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) August 26, 2023
“You want to look at the television on Sunday and see a fight. That is not the case at the moment.
“But that is because one team and one driver are doing a much better job than anybody else, and we need to acknowledge that.”
While Verstappen has been aided by his all-conquering Red Bull machine, it is worth noting that his team-mate Sergio Perez – the only other driver to win a race this year – qualified seventh here, 1.3 seconds behind in the same car.
Qualifying started on a wet track before a dry line emerged for Q3. Two red flags followed as Logan Sargeant and Charles Leclerc crashed out.
By this stage, Hamilton was back in the Mercedes garage. The seven-time world champion appeared to be impeded by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and he failed to post a time fast enough to progress to Q3.
The incident was noted by the stewards and Tsunoda was later handed a three-place grid stop.
Hamilton did not feel he lost time but Wolff, speaking before the Japanese was penalised, said: “Tsunoda is a nice guy but he clearly impeded Lewis.
“The answer is to penalise. If you know you don’t go to prison for cheating tax, you cheat the tax. I don’t understand why these things are not penalised.
“You could say Lewis dived on the inside and it didn’t cost him much. But going from a dry line, to a wet line, and back to a dry line costs time and a tenth of a second would have put him into Q3.
“We need to be harsh on penalties and then people will start looking in their mirrors.”