Tyre preview: Pirelli brings harder compounds to Zandvoort

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Following two race weekends that saw Pirelli supply softer compounds, the Milan-based manufacturer's new C1 tyre compound will make its return this weekend when the F1 field touches down in Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó analyses the track characteristics and tyre compounds for this weekend's Zandvoort round.

After the well-deserved summer break, Formula One returns to action with Zandvoort set to stage the 33th Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix. The track first held an F1 race in 1952 with Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari winning the inaugural Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort has had multiple stints on the F1 calendar, with the track returning to the calendar in 2021 after a 35-year absence.

The most successful team in Zandvoort is Ferrari with eight wins, while the driver with the most victories (4) is Jim Clark.

The circuit was constructed among the sand dunes right next the North Sea after World War II and Sammy Davis from England is said to have advised the Dutch Automobile Racing Club on the layout.

The track is known for its tight and twisty nature, but its characteristics is also defined by the banked sections of several of its corners. In fact, the banking is still a relatively new feature of the Zandvoort track as it was a solution that was introduced in 2021 to promote overtaking on a track at which it was notoriously difficult to make a pass.

The solution, suggested by the late Charlie Whiting and overseen by Italian architect Jarno Zaffelli, was to introduce 18-degree banking at Turn 3, named after Hugenholtz, as well as the final corner – which, fittingly, was already dedicated to Arie Luyendyk, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 where the banking is only around nine degrees. Moreover, the first corner, Tarzan (supposedly the nickname of a local farmer, who only agreed to sell his land if a corner was named after him) also features banking, albeit to a lesser degree.

As for the tyre choice for this weekend: 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.

On paper, the fastest strategy is a two-stopper, but it’s possible to stop just once with careful tyre management. Most drivers completed last year’s Dutch Grand Prix with three stops, although it was down to a late safety car period that motivated drivers to dive into the pit for fresh tyres.

Pirelli nominated relatively high starting pressures for this weekend. For the front tyres, the starting pressures are 24.0 psi while the limit is set at 21.0 psi for the rears. The camber limit is -3.00° for the front and -2.00° for the rears.

Pirelli's Motorsport Director Mario Isola commented: “The second half of the season gets underway with a unique race. The Dutch Grand Prix takes place in Zandvoort: one of the most traditionally demanding tracks on the calendar that returned to the Formula 1 schedule three years ago on the wave of all the local support for Max Verstappen, who repaid his fans amply with a pair of victories from the last two races. It’s a very twisty track with two banked corners – Turn 3 and Turn 14 – that are steeper than Indianapolis, by way of comparison.

"On corners like this the stress on the tyres is greater than it would be through normal corners, as the vertical forces increase with the much higher speeds due to the banking. We’ve brought the same tyres as 2022, at least as far as the names are concerned: C1, C2, and C3.

"However, the current C1 is actually a new compound for this year, positioned between the C2 and the previous C1, which is now called the C0. Last year, in a race that was characterised by two neutralisations, no fewer than 14 drivers – including the top three – used all three compounds, underlining the wide variety of options available to the strategists on the pit wall," Isola concluded.