Following a 36-year absence from the sport, the Netherlands will make its return this weekend when the lights go out at the revamped Zandvoort race track.
“Ah man, the track is epic!” commented Lewis Hamilton after the opening day for the Dutch Grand Prix. The defending champion was sidelined with an oil system problem at the beginning the afternoon’s session and he was limited to just half-an-hour session in FP1 due to lengthy red flag period triggered by the reliability problems for Sebastian Vettel’s AMR21. In spite of this, the Briton was enthusiastic just as many of his colleagues after getting their first taste of the short, but extremely challenging Zandvoort circuit.
The track measures only 4.259 kilometres, which is a very different feature compared to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit where the field was just a week ago. With Zandvoort located in an area of sand dunes near the beach, the wind sometimes blows sand onto the track, which can heavily affect grip. Adding to this challenge, the new three banked sections, the flowing nature of the circuit and the punishing gravel traps make Zandvoort a real test of drivers' and machines' skills.
Considering all these facts, it is no wonder that every driver wanted as much track time as possible on Friday even if many of them have previous experiences as Zandvoort is a favourite location for junior series.
"It was a great experience driving this circuit today. I think it’s definitely a driver’s favourite, it’s very undulating and all the banking is great to drive. It’s fast, flowing and you can’t put a wheel wrong and that is what we all want from a race track. It wasn’t easy out there though and it was a very interrupted day with all the red flags. There’s therefore not a huge amount to take away from today but the pace isn’t quite as we’d like. Nevertheless, a few improvements overnight and I think we will be able to make some good steps. The traffic is also really difficult to manage with this short lap and I think that it is going to be key to get a clear run tomorrow, particularly in Q1."Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:12.907, P12; FP2: 1:12.610, P18
"It was definitely challenging out there today. It’s a tight and twisty circuit with very few straights, so having 20 cars on track made it difficult to get some space. I spent a lot of time looking in my mirrors which can be quite difficult to manage on a hot lap. It’s also a very fun track to drive though; it’s high speed and narrow, so a proper old school track that will punish you if you make a mistake!
"I think we have some work to do tonight as it’s not quite where we wanted to be ending FP2. Whilst I felt like I got up to speed quite quickly, the red flags caused a lot of disruption, so it would have been great to get some more data from the team’s perspective. I think there’s some improvements we can make in both low and high fuel runs, so we’ll see what we can do and go again tomorrow."
Welcome to the Netherlands! 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/69HzrDDGrs— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) September 3, 2021
FerrariCharles Leclerc - FP1: 1:11.623, P4; FP2: 1:10.902, P1
"I think there is still quite a bit of potential for us to improve. It is looking good for now, but we shouldn’t get carried away because it’s just Friday and I feel our competitors have a bit of performance still to reveal.
"I really enjoyed driving on the new Zandvoort. The banking feels very special on the first timed lap and it’s just overall a fun track to drive on. Then for the race, I don’t think there will be much overtaking so it will be important to secure a good grid position tomorrow. Our race pace was not as good as the single lap performance so we will be focusing on that."Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:11.601, P3; FP2: 1:11.056, P2
"It’s an impressive and different track compared to what we are used to. It was fun to try different lines in FP1 around the banking corners and to push a bit more in FP2. I enjoyed myself out there today and the atmosphere with the fans close to the track is great!
"In terms of performance, we felt confident straightaway with the car balance and with the car performance. We managed to do some decent running on soft tyres, whereas other competitive cars were caught out by the flags, so that’s maybe why we look so good on the time sheet. For sure we have room to improve, but still the car felt good and it was a positive Friday for us."
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:11.597, P2; FP2: 1:11.264, P5
“It’s been a good day and it was really enjoyable to see everyone in orange having fun in the grandstands. Of course the track is also very fun to drive with a lot of fast corners so it was good to finally get out there. From our side I don’t think the lap times are very representative today as I did my fastest lap on a used set of tyres.
“I was improving on another push lap and then Mazepin had a spin otherwise I think we would be higher up but it’s only Friday and we’re still looking at all the details of where we can do better and improve. The long runs looked competitive which is positive but we also know that the start position is very important here so we’ll see what we can do to get more pace out of the car overnight.”Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:13.328, P16; FP2: 1:11.946, P12
“It was awesome to get out there and drive this old school circuit. It’s very different to the other tracks we go to and with so many consecutive right-hand corners it’s a pretty unique and physical challenge. I’ve never driven here before so it’s completely new and with so many red flags it was difficult to get into a rhythm.
“You really need the confidence going into the session to trust the car in order to push it and I wasn’t quite there or fully comfortable today so there are a couple of things on my side that we need to look at and make some decisions on in order to get the most out of the package. It’s amazing to see so many fans enjoying themselves and cheering in the grandstands so I expect the energy around the track to only get better and better over the weekend.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:12.231, P7; FP2: 1:11.074, P3
“It’s been a fun Friday and learning this track in a Formula 1 car has been awesome. It’s been high grip, a lot of Gs, undulation and taking on the banked corners, which, overall, has been mega fun. As a team, it’s been a good day and we look quite competitive, but we know qualifying is when that counts.
I experienced that in FP1 with the close call with Lando [Norris]. It was a little close for comfort but in the end nothing happened and we move on. The car handled really well today and I’m sure there’s more for us to find. It’s a small track, narrow in places, and managing traffic in qualifying will be a challenge.”Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:12.158, P6; FP2: 1:11.280, P6
“It was another challenging day for us but it was the same for everybody with all of the small incidents and red flags throughout the day. We have to analyse everything now and make sure we’re in the best shape tomorrow. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy weekend and the traffic in qualifying will be difficult to manage. I do like the track, it’s quite different in a few places and the banked corners are fun. The atmosphere is amazing too. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
MercedesLewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:11.500, P1; FP2: 1:11.911, P11
"This track is epic. It brought back so many memories when I first got out there, from when I drove here before. I knew it was great when I was in Formula 3, but in a Formula One car it is just something else. It's a shame I couldn't complete more running, but the loss of power cut my FP2 short quite early on.
"I've got some catching up to do and we need to investigate the issue in more detail, but it's not the end of the world. The car wasn't feeling too bad, in the limited running I had, and Valtteri had a productive FP2, so we'll have plenty of learnings to take from that. It was amazing to see the crowd here today, there were so many people out there and the Dutch fans bring so much energy. I hope it's a great weekend for everyone."Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:11.738, P5; FP2: 1:11.132, P4
"Overall, it was a good day for me, and I enjoyed it out on track. It's an exciting track to drive, with all the banked corners and high-speed sections. It's got a nice flow and it's fairly easy to settle into a rhythm. I'm sure tomorrow in Qualifying will be even more fun. It was quite a disrupted day with a lot of red flags, but even so, I got quite a lot of laps in, particularly in FP2 where we did some proper running on both single lap and long runs. I'm sure we have plenty of data to go through. The margins look small, which is nice to see, so everything is possible."
“I think overall that was a decent afternoon session. We had some catching up to do because of the power unit issue this morning. So I had to find the rhythm quickly and it helped that I have driven here before many years ago. They did not change too much on the track [layout], but I think the changes they have made are for the better.
“It is an exciting lap because of the banking and corners with camber are always good fun to drive. We need more circuits with these types of corners. The crowd was great, too, and I am enjoying the atmosphere. There is more to come from me and the car so it will be interesting to see what we can find overnight.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:12.431, P9; FP2: 1:12.136, P14
“It was a positive day to start the weekend and I really enjoyed the experience of driving at Zandvoort once again. Track time was limited in FP1, we finished ninth, and we looked strong in FP2 until we were caught out by the red flag when I was on a quick lap. I felt comfortable in the car and I think we have a good baseline. We know that qualifying is going to be key to success here because overtaking will be so difficult, but there is some degradation, which might make strategy a bit more of a factor. We have got plenty of data to look at tonight and we will aim to take another step forward tomorrow.”
McLarenDaniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:13.081, P14; FP2: 1:12.157, P15
“This track’s cool, it’s a lot of fun! I definitely enjoyed that. This morning I was relatively comfortable, this afternoon not so. We tried some things on the car that, in hindsight, I don’t think were the right direction. But, that’s what free practice is for. It made FP2 a little more tricky, but we’ll go back and learn from that. I think we’ll still be in good shape tomorrow, but today we were just a little bit off in FP2. There are some quick cars out there, so we’ve got our work cut out for us, but it’s a fun track and I’m really enjoying it.”Lando Norris - FP1: 1:12.679, P11; FP2: 1:11.488, P8
“A tough first day. It was tricky with the traffic and difficult to get laps in with the red flags and stoppages. It began with a good feeling with the car, and we weren’t too bad, but we’ve got some work to do to be able to consistently get good laps in during qualifying, which I’m sure we can do. A decent day but work to do overnight.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly - FP1: 1:12.515, P10; FP2: 1:11.462, P7
“I must say it was really fun today, it’s an amazing track to drive on and very unique, especially Turn 3 – it’s like sliding in a toboggan, with the banking. Obviously, the sessions were interrupted quite a lot with the red flags, so it was difficult to make it through our whole programme, but we still managed to complete a lot of it.
"I think we’re not looking as good as we would’ve liked but hopefully, we can work tonight to find a bit more performance for tomorrow. I’m confident we can do that. I think traffic in Q1 tomorrow could be an issue and I need to try to avoid this mess. Then I think looking towards the race it will be very difficult to overtake, so the priority is getting a good starting position.”Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: No time set, P20; FP2: 1:12.096, P13
“In the morning we were testing some aero components, but we had a minor PU issue that we had to investigate and weren’t able to go back out. For the rest of the session, I watched a lot of on-board videos from other cars and tried to learn as much as possible before the afternoon. In FP2 I completed my first push-lap, I tried to take it easy at first as there’s not a lot of run-off areas on this track.
"At the end I managed a lap I was quite happy with, I obviously need to do a lot more work tonight, but I felt quite confident in the car and it was important for the team to get this data, so we can prepare for Qualifying tomorrow. I think Quali will be really important, as it seems that it’ll be difficult to overtake here during the race, so hopefully I can put it altogether when it counts tomorrow.”
#F1 is back in the Netherlands! 🇳🇱— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) September 3, 2021
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Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:13.053, P13; FP2: 1:12.206, P16
“We did a good job today, despite all the interruptions with the red flags. It’s quite a different track from what we usually drive on, but it’s nice: it’s not an easy one to put a lap together but driving on something new is a good challenge, and the crowd really makes an atmosphere.. As always on a Friday, we still have to find a few improvements here and there: it’s normal and we can make a step forward for qualifying. The objective remains the same, to have a place in Q2 – we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:12.359, P8; FP2: 1:11.678, P9
“It’s been a positive Friday, this track is really cool to drive, especially with these cars. From the moment we arrive, it feels like a party and it’s a huge credit to the Dutch fans, they really welcomed Formula One back. The track is enjoyable but it’s not an easy one on which to put everything together: still, we did a good job and we’re satisfied with where we are, both in the race runs and on the single lap. Tomorrow, of course, is another day, but we had a good start and we can build on it: hopefully we can have a good qualifying as overtaking is not easy here, so Saturday’s result will be crucial. We will give it our best.”
HaasMick Schumacher – FP1: 1:13.847, P18; FP2: 1:12.607, P17
“I think the word rollercoaster really fits for here! It was a decent day, still lots to learn about this new track but I’m sure it’s the same for everyone. I still think we need to tweak it a little bit to get everything we can out of it, but I think we’re on a good road. We still have some margin but I’m sure we will find it. Things might look different tomorrow but for today we can be very happy.”
Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:13.516, P17; FP2: 1:12.835, P19
“It was a lot more fun than I expected. The first time I passed the banking in the last corner I experienced something very different with my body – it felt quite cool! A new feeling for me, for sure, in Formula 1. Overall, it was quite a challenging day. I was very happy with the car in FP1 and then we made some changes which didn’t quite do what we expected given the track has improved. Loads learned and looking forward to getting out there in FP3.”