About the Netherlands Grand Prix
Making a welcome return to the F1 Circuit in 2020 is the Dutch Grand Prix which is set to take its place among the early race schedule. This was once a regular on the calendar and it’s surprising for casual motorsport fans to note that the Netherlands GP hasn’t been run since way back in 1985.
It’s great to see it back but how much do we know about this iconic event?
As the 2020 season begins, none of the current crop of F1 drivers has ever tasted success at the Netherlands Grand Prix. In fact, most weren’t even born when Niki Lauda claimed the final chequered flag back in 1985. It’s interesting to note that this was Lauda’s final F1 victory and, following his sad passing in 2019, it’s even more poignant to see the Dutch race return.
Lauda won three Dutch Grand Prix across his career and that places the Austrian in joint second in the all time winners list along with Jackie Stewart. The record holder in this respect is Jim Clark who won four Netherlands GP in the 1960s. From 2020 onwards, all of the current drivers are starting from scratch so it will take some time for Clark’s tally to be matched.
In regards to manufacturers, Ferrari are by far the most successful team with nine wins. The Italian giants are three ahead of their nearest rivals Lotus who finished on six Dutch GP victories.
One of the records that should quickly fall when the Dutch Grand Prix returns in 2020 is the fastest lap. The development in cars has increased exponentially since the last race in 1985 and it would be a huge surprise if the current mark wasn’t overtaken.
When that curtain came down in 1985, Alain Prost filed the lap record for the final Dutch Grand Prix at 1.16:538. Closing down the race meant that the mark would stand for over 30 years and, technically, it could remain at that level. That’s because the track has been redesigned for the new era so any fastest laps will be for the new Zandvoort circuit.
Marks have already been set and in a demonstration lap in 2017, current F1 driver Max Verstappen went round in 1,19:511. Will that finish be beaten in 2020 and will the current crop of drivers even move to overtake Alain Prost’s previous mark? Time will tell as the new era begins.
Legends were born at the Dutch Grand Prix and that’s one of the reasons why it has been so dearly missed. James Hunt won his first ever race here in 1975 and as we’ve seen, 1985 saw the final ever victory for Hunt’s great rival Niki Lauda.
Jim Clark holds that record of four Dutch GP wins and it’s fair to say that he’s been the most successful driver in the history of the race. Clark also went around the Zandvoort circuit 370 times and that makes him the most experienced driver at the Netherlands Grand Prix.
Records are there to be overtaken but only one driver can claim to be the first to win the Dutch GP. The very first man to claim the chequered flag was the notable Thai Prince Bira. An incredible man, Bira was also a noted pilot and he competed in four olympic games as a sailor.
One of the reasons why the Dutch Grand Prix was so popular lay in its ability to produce characters such as these and we’re certain there will be more amazing stories in the years that lie ahead.
Just as it was in the past, the modern version of the Dutch Grand Prix will be held at the Circuit Park Zandvoort in the north of the country. It’s about a half an hour’s drive outside of the capital Amsterdam and the track is close to Holland’s North Sea coastline.
After the 1985 Grand Prix, the circuit fell into disuse and part of it was subsequently sold off to a holiday park. In time, Zandvoort started to hold races again and some of the current F1 drivers would have already competed here when the track was home to Formula three.
In terms of the track, it is known for an especially steep bank that carries a higher gradient than those used in the Indy 500. There are 14 turns in total and the overall length for 2020 onwards comes in at 4,252 KM. The crowd capacity is currently set at 105,000 and the organisers will be hoping for a big turnout to welcome F1 back to Holland. Whoever does decide to turn up will see a new track and it’s clearly one that will provide a test for the new group of drivers.
It’s only just made its way back onto the Formula One calendar after an absence of 35 years so surely the Netherlands Grand Prix will be back for a considerable time? When the announcement was made that the race would be returning in 2020, the sports governing body confirmed that the contract had been signed for the next three years.
F1 stated that this was for three years ‘at least’ so clearly there is the potential for more. It may depend on attendances and how the race is received between now and 2022 but we’re hopeful that the Netherlands Grand Prix is now here to stay.