The latest F1 track contract renewal sees Zandvoort and the Dutch Grand Prix extend their partnership through the 2025 season.
Zandvoort was scheduled to return to the F1 calendar in 2020, but its return was pushed back to the 2021 season due to the pandemic. The contract was initially for three races, set to expire in 2023. The new agreement is essentially a two-race extension of the original agreement.
The track’s return uncoincidentally lines up with the rise of Dutch star Max Verstappen. In the same way, Italian, Brazilian, and British drivers have had home races at the peak of their powers, Formula 1 made the smart decision to give their star driver a home race.
The decision to only extend the contract for two years is interesting, as Max Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull will not expire until 2028. One potential reason for the short extension is the conduct of some fans during the most recent Grand Prix there.
During qualifying last year, a fan threw a flare at the circuit impairing the driver’s visibility. Even during the race, there are issues with flares, as fans light them in the stands, the orange-colored smoke eventually infiltrated the track. It is nice to see the passion from the fans, but drivers have noted its danger. Most notably, Max Verstappen commented on the threat of the flares,
“”It’s very silly to do. To hold flares, it’s nice, but already there is a limit to how much, but to throw it on the track is just stupid. So just don’t do that, it’s not good for anyone, you get thrown out so you can’t see the race and for us the session gets stopped because it’s dangerous, so you just shouldn’t do it.”
The race organizers will need to find a way to stop the flares from entering the stands. They can make the necessary changes, just as they did with the circuit itself.
The track received several changes upon its return in 2021, making it a high-speed and unique track. One of the landmark changes was the banked curves which change elevation and add speed to the track. Former F1 driver Jan Lammers noted,
“This is a very fast track, the average speed will be very high. The newly introduced banked curves especially make it truly unique. There is no other circuit like it in Formula One.”
However, the 2021 race featured a lack of overtaking and overall excitement. To remedy this, the race organizers added a second DRS zone to aid in overtaking. The track also featured a unique remedy for the gravel that makes its way on the track.
Solución en Zandvoort para evitar que grava vaya a pista cuando un coche va por el interior de T12. Yo no puedo despegarlas, veremos un F1
In Zandvoort they glued the gravel to avoid stones going on the track when a car cut T12. I can't move it, let's see if F1 cars can#f1 pic.twitter.com/pBHfIdrn7h
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) September 1, 2022
The lack of gravel on the track opens up more racing lines for a driver to perform an overtake. These changes gave the drivers more options to overtake and allowed the high speed to shine. The 2022 iterations of the F1, F2, & F3 races proved the improvements have produced better racing.
The future of Zandvoort is secure for the next few years, but the long-term viability of the track is unclear. While Max Verstappen is in the sport, Zandvoort could continue to receive these medium-term extensions. As the sport tries to go to Africa and expands in North America, its place on the calendar remains unsteady. While an increase in the number of races each season remains to be seen, Zandvoort’s continual improvements surely help its case.