Race preview: Dutch Grand Prix

By on

Following a three-week summer break, the Formula One field is set to assemble at Zandvoort this weekend for the Dutch Grand Prix. F1Technical senior writer Balázs Szabó picks out the key facts ahead of Round 15 of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Zandvoort played host to a memorable race in 2021 when the sport returned to the Netherlands following a 35-year hiatus. The return of the Dutch Grand Prix was originally scheduled for 2020 but Formula One was forced to postpone it as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic with the organizers unwilling to celebrate the return with a race that is held behind closed doors.

34 Dutch Grands Prix have been held so far, but only 32 of these races were part of the Formula One World Championship, meaning that this Sunday’s race will be the 32nd F1 Dutch Grand Prix.

All Dutch Grands Prix were held at Zandvoort despite the fact that the Netherlands has another great race track. However, this other famous and legendary Dutch circuit, Assen is used for motorcycle racing, and has hosted the Dutch TT, a round of the Motorcycle World Championship, since 1949.

The first ever F1 Dutch Grand Prix took place in 1952 and was won by Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari, who went on to take a second win the following year. Before the big return in 2021, the last Dutch Grand Prix was won by an Austrian with McLaren’s Niki Lauda crossing the finish line first in his McLaren-TAG.

The most successful driver is Jim Clark who won the Dutch Grand Prix four times, followed by Jackie Stewart and Lauda, who won three races apiece. The other repeat winners are Ascari, Jack Brabham, James Hunt and Alain Prost with all of them having two triumphs in the Netherlands to their names.

Ferrari is the most successful constructor at the Dutch Grand Prix with eight victories. The Scuderia won twice with Alberto Ascari at the wheel with Wolfgang von Trips, Jacky Ickx, Didier Pironi and René Arnoux also having clinched a win with the Maranello-based outfit.

The C1 compound is nominated at the Dutch Grand Prix as P Zero White hard, C2 as P Zero Yellow medium and C3 as P Zero Red soft. This is the same choice as the last two years (since Zandvoort returned to the calendar) with the difference being that the current C1 compound is softer than its predecessors.

The circuit measures 4.259 kilometres. Zandvoort is located in an area of sand dunes near the beach, with the wind sometimes blowing sand onto the track and affecting grip; an issue normally associated with places like Bahrain.

Zandvoort generates some big g forces all around the 4.2-kilometre track: braking into Turns 1 and 11 is a deceleration of about 5g, while Turn 7 also provides lateral forces of around 5g.

The track climbs and drops significantly and several sections are crowd favourites. This nature of the layout makes the circuit a very challenging location where the tiniest mistakes are punished as the run off zones are old-school gravel traps.

The track has extremely narrow asphalt strips and features a twisty layout, which means that overtaking is far from easy. The medium- and high-speed corners require a medium to high downforce set up.

Asked about the difficulties presented by the Zandvoort, Alpine's Pierre Gasly said: „It’s a bit old-school with the banking and it’s a place where you cannot make mistakes - not quite like Monaco but in the same style. There are no tarmac run off areas and if you get it wrong, you are straight in the gravel or a wall, while the corners are unusual.”

The Zandvoort circuit looks somewhat different to the track that last hosted Formula 1 in 1985 as it has been modified for its return in 2021: Turn 3 and the last one, Turn 14 (named after former circuit director John Hugenholtz and Dutch driver Arie Luyendyk respectively), now boast a 19 degree banking, which allows the drivers to go through them at much higher speeds.

Apart from the banked corners, there are other famous turns at Zandvoort. One of these famous corners is the Tarzan hairpin: the first corner of the lap, which is now closer to the start-finish line than it was previously. The Hans Ernst bend towards the end of the lap also has a wider exit than it did before, enabling drivers to get on the power sooner.