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Formula One is back in session after a lengthy summer break where drivers and the rest of the paddock recharged for the upcoming 10-race stretch over 13 weeks or so.
The Dutch Grand Prix marks the start of that stretch as the sport heads to the beachside town of Zandvoort, roughly a 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam. And while most grandstands feature an array of colors, this race is largely filled with orange-clad fans.
Ferrari may be the most successful constructor at this track, but Red Bull is entering Max Verstappen’s home race with an unbeaten record after 12 races this season. There’s a record at stake this weekend as the Dutchman looks to equal Sebastian Vettel’s streak of nine consecutive wins. Back in 2013, the German driver won every grand prix through the second half of the season. But for Verstappen to continue his dominant stretch, he’ll need to deliver a strong qualifying. Track position is crucial given how the narrow Circuit Zandvoort limits overtaking opportunities, but passing is not impossible. Banked corners provide avenues for drivers to take different lines and battle.
“Undulating” is a widely-used term to describe the nature of the circuit as the ebbs, flows and banking create a rollercoaster-type feel. The twisty track is hard on the tires, so it’s likely safe to expect a multi-stop race like last year’s grand prix (which, granted, featured a late safety car). Precision is required as drivers navigate around the banks and gravel traps that leave little room for error. And with it being a beachside town, sand and dirt will drift onto the track throughout the weekend, creating another obstacle for teams.
“It’s really raw,” F1 Academy driver Abbi Pulling said to F1TV. “It’s motorsport to a T, really.”
- Circuit length: 4.259 km (2.646 miles)
- Number of laps: 72
- Race distance: 306.587 km (190.504 miles)
- Lap record: 1:11.097 (Lewis Hamilton, 2021)
- DRS zones: 2
- Corners: 14 (four left, 10 right)
- First GP: 1952
Around the sand dunes
Tight, twisty and with some banked corners, Circuit Zandvoort gives a challenging old-school vibe. Qualifying is a crucial session given the limited overtaking opportunities, and concentration is needed as drivers navigate fewer long straights and steep banking (some of which rivals that of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway).
The track originally was a mix of public roads and a permanent circuit, and the Dutch Automobile Racing Club had 1927 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Sammy Davis consult on the original layout. Similar to the UK’s Silverstone, Zandvoort was part of the post-war motorsport wave. From 1952 to 1985, it became one of the most used circuits, though F1 raced at the track on and off. The likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Niki Lauda and Jackie Stewart have all won at this track, but arguably one of the most iconic moments came during the 1979 race when Gilles Villeneuve completed a three-wheel lap.
Formula One went on a 36-year hiatus from Zandvoort before adding the circuit back to the calendar in 2021 (the initial announcement was made for 2020, but the COVID-19 global pandemic delayed the return). Since then, Max Verstappen has won both Dutch Grands Prix. The track has been modernized since its creation. The first half still uses the corners from the 1948 layout, but the second half (introduced in 1999) was remodeled.
Meet a few of the unique turns
Turn 1: Tarzan
This is one of the most famous corners at Zandvoort given the banking angle (18 degrees, which rivals Indianapolis Motor Speedway). The wide bend gives the drivers a rare overtaking opportunity.
Turn 2: Gerlach
The left kink is named in honor of Wim Gerlach, a Dutch driver who died following a wreck during a 1957 sportscar race.
Turn 3: Hugenholtz
Hello banking. Drivers tend to take as high a line as possible through this sweeping turn to essentially create a sling shot with maximum speed. They’ll brake fairly late, looking as if they’re going to collide with the barrier.
Turn 6: Rob Slotemaker
This is another portion of the track named after a driver who was killed. Rob Slotemaker, a Dutch racer, died at this turn during a touring car race in Sept. 1979.
Final corner: Arie Luyendyk
This name may ring a bell for IndyCar fans — Arie Luyendyk is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Turn 14 features banking that’s nearly twice as steep as Indianapolis at 18 degrees (32%) but not nearly as strong as the likes of the original Monza layout. Drivers zip around the righthander and exit into the long straight (with DRS).
— Dutch Grand Prix (@f1dutchgp) August 24, 2023
- Lap distance at full throttle: 65%
- Gear changes per lap: 52
- Maximum speed: 321 km/h (199.46 mph)
- Most wins: Jim Clark (4)
- Number of overtakes in 2022: 47
- Time lost on pit stop: 21.53 seconds
- The circuit fell into financial trouble and went bankrupt in 1987
(Lead photo of the Zandvoort circuit in 2020: SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)