Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix by just 0.038 seconds, sending his devoted home fans wild.
The Red Bull driver had appeared in control throughout qualifying but Hamilton improved on his final lap to miss out by the narrowest of margins.
The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was third, ahead of Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri and the Ferraris.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was eliminated in the first session and is 16th.
Verstappen set the standard on the first lap of final qualifying when he beat Bottas by 0.299secs, a significant margin around one of the shortest laps on the calendar.
But Hamilton – who managed only one lap in the second practice session on Friday, reducing his time to set up the car – pulled it out with a trademark lap at the end.
Verstappen improved – as he needed to, because Hamilton exactly matched the Dutchman’s lap from his first run.
Verstappen revealed that he had a double upshift on his lap and had also failed to open the DRS overtaking aid on the run to the line, both of which would have cost time.
He said: “It is of course the best position. We know passing is difficult, a lot of laps around here, the tyres are struggling around the high-speed corners but I hope we can finish it off tomorrow.”
Hamilton was booed by the capacity 80,000 crowd as he did his interview immediately after the session, but saluted the enthusiasm of the local fans.
He said: “So close. I want to say a big thank you to all the orange fans here, the Dutch fans. What an amazing venue and track. I really love coming to this country.
“Max did an amazing lap and I was so close to catching him. With yesterday’s session missed, it made it difficult, but I did my best.
“It’s a difficult circuit to overtake [on], but what a place to be racing. We haven’t seen a crowd like this in a while. It is great to see so many people here and I hope we can put on a great race. It is a very tough circuit, which is what makes it so fantastic to drive.”
Behind the big three
Gasly was outstanding in putting the Alpha Tauri fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi produced another eye-catching performance to go seventh.
His team-mate Kimi Raikkonen has been ruled out of the weekend after testing positive for coronavirus and was replaced by reserve driver Robert Kubica. The veteran Pole qualified 18th.
The Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were eighth and ninth, separated by only 0.023secs, ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Lando Norris never looked on the pace in qualifying and ended up 13th, his worst qualifying position of the year.
Two crashes for Williams
It was a difficult session for Williams. George Russell, fresh from his heroics in putting his car on the front row in the wet in Belgium last weekend, crashed at the penultimate corner on his second lap in the second session.
He managed to return to the pits but was unable to go out again.
But his 11th place on the grid was saved inadvertently by team-mate Nicholas Latifi.
The session was red flagged while the barriers were repaired following Russell’s accident and when it resumed Latifi crashed himself at Turn Eight, much more heavily than Russell, and the session was ended early.
Russell said: “Apologies to the team. I pushed too hard today and ultimately cost us a shot at Q3. No excuses.
“Starting P11 tomorrow. I’ll do my best to make it up.”