Formula 1 has a history of taking advantage of a growing fanbase by adding a race in the country that is emerging as a real revenue stream on the back of a popular driver. Michael Schumacher was certainly a catalyst in deterring the location of the European Grand Prix when it was at the Nurburgring.
Then you had the emerging star in the form of Fernando Alonso and that brought a second grand prix to Spain in Valencia. The Spanish fans loved having an F1 champion and were happy to overlook the Jersey Barrier defined track around the port in what was visually not outrageously exciting.
Today we find the wandering biomass of Dutch fans traversing Europe like their ancestors did conquering entire sections of grandstands in a sea of orange smoke and shirts. They have a very good reason for doing so in the shape of Max Verstappen who has taken F1 by storm.
What would you do if the fans of a particular driver showed this much loyalty, support and mobility when it comes to seeing their star? You’d host a grand prix in their country of course. In this case, however, you’d bring a grand prix back from the pages of history at one of the more iconic circuits of the past for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
Zandvoort was birthed after the war using roads that had been built by the occupying Germans no less. It was an enterprising use of infrastructure from a darker time. S. C. H. “Sammy” Davis was employed to design the track and the first race was held in 1948 and renamed the Dutch Grand Prix in 1950—the beginning of what F1 considers the modern era. It wasn’t until 1955 that the track was used for the first points-paying F1 race as part of the driver’s championship.
The track experienced a few re-configurations but you’ll be happy to know that it has corner names, like most legacy tracks do, such as Tarzan (1), Masters Corner—formerly knowns a Marlboro (7), and Arie Luyendyk—formerly Bosuit (13).
This week it was announced that the track would experience some new changes ahead of the 2020 return to the F1 calendar. These changes will be some of the more interesting changes to any track on the current Formula schedule. The final turn will have serious banking to it that is reminiscent of an American oval track such as Dayton or Indianapolis.
According to Zandvoort CEO Robert van Overdijk:
“That corner will for sure be the most spectacular part of our renewed circuit.
“The corner will be banked 32%. So the difference in height from the bottom of the corner to the top will be around four and a half metres. That’s considerable.
“We are in fact making an American corner on an otherwise European circuit. That is absolutely unique.”
That’s not quite a s steep as Daytona but still a serious amount of banking and this may make things very interesting but that’s not all. The Hugenholtz corner is also being reconfigured with banking to allow cars to race side-by-side.
“The third corner [Hugenholtz] of the track will be banked as well for the F1 race,” added van Overdijk.
“It will be made parabolic, so that two cars can get through the corner next to each other and more importantly at the same speed.
“The banking will vary between 8% and 18% for that purpose.”
There is the fine line between keeping a circuit the way it was / has been and making new modifications. I can think of the results of Hockenheim (which destroyed the track in my opinion) and Nurburgring to name a couple and thankfully they’ve left Spa Francorchamps alone for the most part. Van Overdijk says that he’s not concerned with making such drastic changes to the historic track.
“Of course Zandvoort has a big name historically,” he said.
“But if you want to keep the track exactly as it was, you really start from the idea that everything used to be better in the good old days.
“And of course that is not the truth. So I am not worried about that.”
What do you think of the notion of serious banking? If you listen to our podcasts, you may recall my commenting about the Circuit of the Americas. In a phone call with track CEO Bobby Epstein, we discussed what changes he’d like to make to the track.
I asked him about turns 17 and 18 and while he said the intent was to replicate the famous Diabolica from the Turkish GP, it didn’t quite work. I mentioned the lack of entry speed and he agreed. He said he’d like to bank that entire turn and at the time I thought that was radical but interesting. Seems the folks at Zandvoort have beaten him to it.
Hat Tip: Autosport