Formula One: Verstappen back on pole for home Dutch Grand Prix

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the pole-position. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands - Red Bull's Max Verstappen fired up his fans by seizing pole position at his home Dutch Formula One Grand Prix for the second year in a row with a storming final effort on Saturday.

Red Bull's runaway championship leader was joined on the front row by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc after qualifying at Zandvoort ended with Verstappen's Mexican team mate Sergio Perez crashing at the final corner.

The accident prevented seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton making a last-gasp bid for pole in his Mercedes, and the Briton ended up in fourth place with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in third.

The pole was Verstappen's fourth of the season and first since Austria in July, while the margin of 0.021 between the top two drivers made it the tightest qualifying battle of the season so far.

"Unbelievable," said the 24-year-old, who had struggled in Friday practice, as the jubilant crowd celebrated in the grandstands.

"Especially after yesterday as well. We had a difficult day but we worked really well overnight with the whole team to turn it around.

"Today we had a quick race car again but it was very close. A lap around here, a qualifying lap, is insane."

Leclerc, a massive 98 points behind Verstappen after 14 of 22 races, was fastest after the first flying laps of the third session, with Verstappen 0.059 slower and Hamilton third quickest.

The Ferrari driver went faster again with his second effort, a one minute 10.363, but Verstappen then put in a clinching 1:10.342 before Perez ended the session.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez crashed at the final corner, an accident that prevented seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton making a last-gasp bid for pole in his Mercedes. PHOTO: AFP

The Mexican - 93 points behind Verstappen and second overall - will start fifth with Mercedes' George Russell sixth and Lando Norris seventh for McLaren.

Mick Schumacher, his future uncertain beyond 2022, bagged eighth place on the grid for Haas.

Yuki Tsunoda was ninth for AlphaTauri and Canadian Lance Stroll completed the top 10, although the Aston Martin driver was unable to take part in the final session due to a technical problem.

The second phase of qualifying at the seaside circuit was briefly halted after an orange flare was thrown onto the track, with the governing FIA saying the person responsible had been identified and removed by security.

Williams' Alex Albon was the sole driver on track at the time and he sounded more vexed by the local wildlife, reporting a 'tonne of pigeons' pecking at the edge of the track at the final corner.

Another thrown flare was caught by television cameras at the start of the third and final phase, but it ended up in the grass by the side of the track. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.