Riding high on a wave of Max Verstappen popularity in Holland, constructors have more or less completed a £12.6 million overhaul of the outdated circuit with a view to making it stand out among the other 21 races on the F1 calendar in 2020.
When F1 and Liberty Media decided to put Zandvoort back on the calendar for the next three years many feared it could be a dull event with virtually no chance for cars to overtake. The answer to this problem along with safety revisions due to lack of run-off areas was to be banked corners.
Indeed director of F1 Ross Brawn admitted he was “worried” Zandvoort would not be a good circuit for F1 before the addition of the banking. It has been planned that the last turn on the track should promote overtaking, the said final turn becoming a staggeringly tall 18-degree curve – twice that of the famous Indianapolis International Speedway in the USA.
“We went through it, we used our simulation and then we came back and said ‘okay well you’d need at least this level of banking to be able to do it,’
“I was worried about how we would make it a good race circuit until we had done that,” concludes Brawn.
Quite why Brawn says that the banked corner onto a final straight will promote overtaking is rather perplexing to TJ13. Indeed the final complex at the Circuit de Catalunya was introduced to create a sniff of a chance of some overtaking action on the main straight as the final sweeping long curve prevented cars getting close enough before the straight in the circuit’s original configuration. Maybe the banking will be different, or maybe not.
Some UK domestic motorsport fans might remember a few years ago the British Touringcar Championship (BTCC) reintroduced the famous old ‘Shell curve’ during the series visit to Oulton Park. That part of the track being a banked curve, not usually bothered with as the track normally uses a hairpin just before the banking.
The Shell curve effectively prevented any overtaking opportunity during the entire lap, thusly producing an incredibly dull overtaking free event.
Regardless of this Judge’s view on the circuit for racing, certainly its’ a unique track and now it’s completed, cars have finally been allowed on it this weekend. Below is an embedded Youtube video of the first onboard footage of Zandvoort and its’ distinct banking.
Also, we’ve translated an article by Joost Smedema written for the Dutch publication nos.nl, the reporter who has interviewed the circuit’s architect Jarno Zaffelli.
Architect Zaffelli: ‘Building Circuit Zandvoort is like playing in the sand’.
by Joost Smedema
He has experience with circuits all over the world, Renovated Imola and Silverstone among others.
There’s no lack of experience at Jarno Zaffelli, who is renovating the Zandvoort circuit with his company Dromo Circuit Design.
After a period of almost 35 years without the Dutch Grand Prix, Formula 1 will return to Zandvoort in May 2020. But for the time being there are no F1 cars to be seen, only excavators, construction equipment and dozens of construction workers.
“It’s not a very difficult job, because it’s mainly sand here”, laughs Zaffelli, looking out over a gaping gap between the Kumho curve and the Arie Luyendijk curve, the last two of the track.
The asphalt in between has been scraped away, concrete tunnel sections lie on the earth and are hoisted into place between metre-high piles of sand.
Winter weather can slow down work
“It reminds me of when I used to play in the sand.
“At Silverstone it was harder, because the surface was harder and we had much less time. The only thing that can throw a spanner in the works here is the winter weather. But that can only slow down the asphalting.”
In 1985 Niki Lauda was the last winner in the dunes of North Holland, a location with a rich Formula 1 history.
Only nine other circuits in the world organised more grand prix than Zandvoort, all of which were on the F1 calendar in 2019.
In the Formula 1-less decades, the circuit has changed a lot, but in the coming months it still has to be rebuilt with all the power it has.
“I can’t name two or three places on the circuit where we’re not working and that’s necessary”, says director Robert van Overdijk.
The most drastic renovations will be carried out in turns three and fourteen, the Hugenholz curve and the Arie Luyendijk curve.
“These will be bowl bends, which we know from Indianapolis and Daytona”, says Jan Lammers, sports director of the Dutch GP.
“But those turns are straight and these are progressive”, which means they only get steeper to the outside.
“We know that from bobsleighing.”
Searching for the right adjustment – No Formula 1 circuit in the world has a curve, let alone two. Lammers:
“It requires a different way of thinking and a different tuning of the car. With a perfect setup for a corner you have a problem in a slower corner. Drivers have to find a compromise, that will be the challenge.”
In those bends the hardest work for the builders on the track will be in the coming months, Zaffelli thinks.
“The asphalting of those corners with a steep gradient will be the hardest, because the machines normally don’t do that.”
Eighty thousand temporary seats In February the work should be completed, in early April the organisation will start with the construction of temporary stands, a total of eighty thousand chairs should be added.
“We also hope to organize some local events to test things,” says Lammers, who is not worried about the outcome and, like Van Overdijk, is looking proudly at the construction of one of the two pedestrian tunnels.
“In the end, we are busy moving sand,” says the track director. “Now we’re demolishing a lot before we can build anything.”