First home race? Oh what, says Max Verstappen. He has certainly seen enough home races. In Spielberg, Austria, and Spa in Belgium, there have been grandstands for years whose only raison d’etre seems to be that they are populated with supporters of Max Verstappen. The Dutch have hijacked the races and dipped Styria and the Ardennes in orange since Verstappen was the youngest driver in history to climb into a Formula 1 car six years ago at the age of 17. First home race? “This is just my first Dutch Grand Prix,” said Verstappen on Thursday.
How much he underestimated the situation.
The next day they are Meester Troelstraat and the Brederodestraat Flags not far from the Zandvoort race track as if King Willem-Alexander was celebrating a milestone birthday. The outer facades of the small brick houses are equipped with permanent flag-bearers; This weekend, the Dutch took checkered flags there. As you approach the main gate, the fans of Verstappen push themselves in an endless orange wave in the direction of the grandstands. You walk past posters that read “Dive into the sea of orange”, which the day before you thought the saying was exaggerated. It is a march of the vaccinated, recovered and tested, that is. Elsewhere in the Netherlands, however, the creators of smaller cultural establishments protest because they are subject to greater restrictions and only a very limited number of viewers is allowed there. Only here in Zandvoort does the nation open up as if uninhibited for Max Verstappen. An orange woman is throwing orange ponchos off a pickup truck without being asked. You don’t want to, but the real orange throws at everyone and aims too well – and now, like tens of thousands, you have a flowing piece of fabric with you Orange Leeuwen on the back.
Formula 1 last made a guest appearance here in 1985
Nobody can blame the Dutch for their anticipation, it has been 36 years since they last received Formula 1 on their west coast. Here, on the beach between Bloemendaal aan Zee and Noordwijk aan Zee, one end of the dune landscape cannot be seen, regardless of whether one looks to the right or left. In the south they border Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen to the place where drinking water is obtained for the city of Amsterdam. The dunes are partly a nature reserve.
When it was decided that Formula 1 would return after more than three decades, it was also clear that the old traditional route, which had already been concreted into the dunes three years after the Nazis had been driven out, along with its clunky Atlantic wall, would have to be rebuilt. And because new access routes were necessary for this, environmentalists foamed like the surf, which sloshes onto the beach just a few meters away.
The organizers promised to relocate every endangered lizard and toad for a perfect hibernation
Opponents of the plan followed a two-pronged strategy to prevent the construction of the new line. For one thing, it would threaten the habitat of the natterjack toad and sand lizard, they argued. Specifically, they feared that the animals would be deprived of their winter rest. One court was satisfied with the presumably unrealistic idea of the organizers that the animals would be collected to hibernate elsewhere.
Even the argument that the many nitrogen oxides pollute the fresh air in the seaside resort did not dissuade the judges from their conviction that the social interest in an international sporting event outweighs more than an interference with the habitat of the animals and the purity of the air. The Extinction Rebellion movement saw it differently. She announced that the Grand Prix was “an example of unnecessary emissions, the destruction of nature and nepotism that endanger our future”. The Dutch government makes an exception “for this fossil party”. On Sunday there is to be a bicycle protest, participants are supposed to dress up as “local dune animals”. We will see.
The majority of Zandvoorters living on tourism apparently wanted Formula 1 back, which last rattled in the seaside resort when Niki Lauda won his last race here in 1985. After that, the track disappeared from the racing calendar, mainly because local residents complained about the noise.
When it came to adapting to changed circumstances, the people of Zandvoort have always been resourceful. Centuries ago when fishing was no longer profitable, they planted potatoes on the dunes. And when the rise of their talent of the century, Verstappen, to become world champion candidate could no longer be overlooked, they made friends with the use of earplugs and set him an extremely unusual stretch in the sand, the pitfalls and sensations of which will only be fully revealed on Saturday during the qualification .
“If you just let yourself be carried away by safety, you are not building a real race track,” says track creator Jarno Zaffelli.
In the first turn with the beautiful name Tarzan Bitch the following route section are the Hugenholtzbocht and the final curve Arie Luyendijkbocht Conceived as banked curves with an incline of 19 or 18 degrees – there is nothing like it on any other Formula 1 circuit. The most famous banked curve in the world to date in Indianapolis has a gradient of 9 degrees. 19 degrees correspond to an incline of 35 percent. The pilots are literally pressed against a wall by the centrifugal forces. This way they can stay on the accelerator longer and, this is the idea of track designer Jarno Zaffelli, they tend to overtake themselves on the following home straight. “We want stretches that are perceived as being as dangerous as possible,” Zaffelli recently said. “If you just let security drift you, you’re not building a real racetrack. Then you’re building a parking lot and run-off areas.”
In Zandvoort, the drivers are loaded with vertical forces, so they are pushed into the seat, not just thrown from left to right. “You have to have a lot of balls,” believes Williams driver George Russell, whose transfer to Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes for the coming season only has to be announced. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. assumes that the pilots are exposed to five times their own body weight up to five times per lap. “If you have to endure 5G once in a round, it’s okay. Four or five times, that could be very tiring for the neck, for the whole body.”
For Lewis Hamilton, the break could also be tiring for the ears. After Verstappen was catapulted out of the race by him at Silverstone and by his team-mate Bottas in Budapest, the last race in Spa fell victim to the rain. Now, of all things, it comes at Verstappen’s home game in the dunes to take revenge for the jostling – against the background that the leadership in the world championship commutes back and forth, currently the Briton is leading with three points. “It’s not up to me to tell people not to boo,” said Verstappen, giving the 70,000 spectators a kind of license to protest. When Hamilton had to park his Mercedes on the side of the track during training, a mad storm of cheers swept over the grandstands, which could possibly have woken up another sand lizard. “I wouldn’t go to an event to boo,” Hamilton countered casually. “But I understand.”