Dutch GP contract extension under threat

Formula One will return this weekend after its traditional four week summer break and given the weather forecast, the fans will be in for some entertaining track action.

For the time of year the temperatures are expected to be relatively cold with Friday predicted to be the warmest day with an ambient temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius.



Cold and Wet Dutch GP predicted

The threat of rain is greatest for Friday practice and Saturday qualifying with a 70% chance of wet weather sessions on track which will throw the teams into chaos for their planning for the race on Sunday.

The wind will also pick up on Saturday making the banked turns particularly difficult to drive and the chances of driver errors may be high particularly during the qualifying session. The top teams may opt for early runs during the pole position shootout to ensure they are not affected by yellow flags caused by others spinning their cars.

Sunday has the best forecast with the rain probability falling to just 40% but it will be the coldest day which will affect the teams long run data on tyre wear gathered on Friday.

While Max Verstappen is looking for his ninth consecutive F1 victory and another home win in front of the adoring sea of orange clad fans at the circuit, there is plenty of intrigue as to how the rest of the front runners will fare.

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McLaren have been the second best teaming terms of points scored for the last four races and Zanvoort will be another test of the upgraded McLaren MCL60 and its ability to perform at a range of different circuits.

Aston Martin have fallen off the pace in recent events and while Ferrari will be hoping their previous good form at the circuit will see them ahead of Mercedes in qualifying.

The Dutch Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar for the 2020 season but was postponed due to the Covid-10 pandemic. Max Verstappen has claimed both victories at the much reconfigured track which hosted Formula One events until 1985 when it became too dilapidated to continue as an F1 venue.

The circuit promoters signed a five year deal with Formula One which runs until the end of the 2024 season but unlike other venues with just a year left to run on their deal, Zandvoort is yet to announce an F1 contract extension.

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Zandvoort does F1 differently

Since its revival the event has been praised by F1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali for bringing fresh ideas to European events which at some of the historic F1 tracks have become staid and less fan friendly.

“I want to congratulate the Dutch promoter because, without disrespect to anyone, they brought a great fresh air to the European community,” said Domenicali.

“Despite the small track, and despite the old facilities, they brought a new way of having an incredible event – in terms of passionate people, in terms of sense of community, in terms of entertainment, in terms of music and in terms of energy.”

The Belgium GP which currently has a year by year contract has now copied a number of the ideas brought by Zandvoort with its biggest and most entertaining Formula One race weekend held this year.

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Even so, the future of the race is still in doubt as Formula One continues to expand its horizons and look for new and exciting possibilities such as in Miami and Las Vegas.

Jan Lammers, a former F1 driver and sporting director for the venue, admits this week there is no guarantee the Netherlands based race will receive a contract extension beyond next year.

The problem for the historic European races is they are facing competition from heavily state subsidised countries who pay F1 massive hosting fees which are impossible for the European promoters to match.

“If you see countries like Saudi Arabia committing to their Grand Prix for 900 million for ten years, we can’t take on that kind of competition,” Lammers tells Viaplay this week.

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Zandvoort cannot follow Silverstone model

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was under threat for almost a decade when Bernie Ecclestone ran F1 simply because it is one of two annual F1 events that has no state backed funding or tax relief scheme.

The circuit has expanded its attendance from around 100,000 a day to this year reaching almost 450,000 over the three day weekend. The Northamptonshire circuit is pushing to sell half a million tickets for 2024 and the increase in entertainment and facilities for the fans during the weekend has enabled the promoter to increase the fee they pay to host the event.

Zandvoort being one of the shortest circuits on the calendar only has so much room to increase the race weekend attendance and so cannot follow the Silverstone model.

However the saving grace for Zandvoort is the teams have always insisted in their Concorde agreement with the FIA and F1 that one third of races each year must be held in their homeland of Europe.

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F1 CEO praise Dutch organisers

The new Formula One expansion model recently revealed by Stefano Domenicali will see certain race venues alternate from year to year with another. This he believes will keep Formula One fresh and the race promoters o their toes.

Domenicali has nothing but praise for the Dutch GP organisers who  invested in the circuit long before Max Verstappen was world champion or even sure of winning a home event.

“It showed the level of commitment that every promoter has to do to improve the quality of the event. With the situation of Max, they could say: ‘Let’s wait and see’. And it wouldn’t be a problem at all,” commented the F1 supremo.

“But they didn’t, and this again shows the level of attention to details that they propose to us. They’ve been in close contact to me since the first day to share the ideas, to share the packages that they want to do and the things that they want to activate.”

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Europe must host 8 F1 events

A number of factors have contrived towards the delay in the contract renewal for Zandvoort one of which being the much expected South African GP.

The 2023 calendar listed 24 events guaranteeing Europe eight races, however the final tally given South Africa’s failure to announce in time saw Europe host nine events instead.

Now the South African GP is dead in the water it will depend on which other events outside Europe Formula One has lined up its sleeve, because with the return of China next season the roster will be full at 24 races.

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Zandvoort year by year F1 extension

Miami held its inaugural event in 2022, Las Vegas comes online this season, but as yet Formula One has not indicated there will be another new venue joining the calendar for 2025.

Like Belgium, Zandvoort may well find itself on a year by year contract extension as F1 examines future non-European races but its long term future may be in a bi-annual rotation with the nearby Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.

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