Well that was strange, wasn’t it? The teams arrive in the Netherlands this week after completing what is now officially the shortest race in history at the longest circuit on the calendar in Spa Francorchamps. Zandvoort happens to be one of the shortest tracks on the calendar by contrast; it has been a rather odd year this.
Nonetheless, it is a welcome return for the sport to an iconic circuit, and a track steeped in undulation, tantalising risk and edifying rewards. It is also the second race running where we will see the famous orange wall – for McLaren of course.
Ingratiating yourself with the fans though does not win races, and that is not what Formula One did last weekend either, presenting a Grand Prix described as “farcical” by World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, but impeccable weather at the seaside Dutch town, so a repeat of Sunday’s fiasco is not on the cards.
The 4.2 kilometre track played host to 28 Formula One Grands Prix before it exited the calendar in 1985, and it remains the only Dutch circuit to host a Formula One race – championship or otherwise – in spite of strong appeals for Assen to make its F1 debut. The irresistible Zandvoort, however, was selected as the holy grail of Formula One’s return to the Netherlands.
The amenity of the sand dunes surrounding the track results in a superb, flowing, tight and inherently difficult circuit, along with the infamous banked final corner.
The events of Spa leave us in the unusual position of three drivers – Sir Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz – sitting on decimal points in the standings, with Hamilton leading Verstappen heading into the Dutchman’s home race this weekend.
The nature of the track would tend to suit the Red Bulls, and the technical aspect of the track means that battles up and down the grid could be decided by which drivers are able to extract those extra few thousandths through the tough corners. This will be a tough race.
That detail may also bring Williams, who looked down and out at the end of 2019, back up into the points. George Russell’s podium in Spa was an inspiring moment for a team that has battled immensely to get back up the grid in recent times, and Nicholas Latifi’s qualifying saw them score their second consecutive double-points finish in almost five years. Can they make it three in a row for the first time since 2016 too?
What a weekend! It’s no secret that we’ve had some tough times in recent years, but not one member of this team has ever stopped pushing. You all belong up on that podium, @WilliamsRacing. It was a privilege to represent you up there today. 💙 pic.twitter.com/9hLpCUaanF
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) August 29, 2021
Lots to be excited about then, as Formula one finally returns to Zandvoort for the first time in 26 years. And hopefully we will get more than two laps this time!