Did Formula 1's Return to Holland Live up to Expectations?
It was Zandvoort's first race since 1985 and boy was it worth the wait...
Zandvoort, Netherlands - The Netherlands waited 36 years for Formula 1 to return to its country and after the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix, it's safe to say it was well worth the wait. Three days of racing around the Zandvoort Circuit are done and dusted with the Grand Finale being Max Verstappen taking a dream victory at home. You couldn't have scripted it any better for the Orange Army and Verstappen as the race weekend was almost flawless in every direction. Now that the Orange smoke has settled and teams are on route to Monza, we're going to take a closer look at F1's return to Holland and whether it lived up to the hype. We'll look at the track itself, the quality of racing, and the general atmosphere around the weekend. If at any point you've enjoyed watching this video, give it a thumbs up and let us know if the comments what you thought of the Dutch Grand Prix!
The Zandvoort Circuit
Although under going many changes since the last F1 Grand Prix in 1985, Zandvoort was able to maintain its old school appeal and that was a huge success with the drivers. Even after limited running on Friday, drivers were full of praise of the Zandvoort Circuit and you could tell just how much they were enjoying the challenges that Zandvoort had to offer. The newly banked corners provided fans with some spectacular shots and gave the drivers plenty of headaches to deal with. Turn 3 made more headlines than the banking at the final corner as it caught out drivers like Carlos Sainz but it also forced drivers to test the racing lines as Fernando Alonso was first to discover the effectiveness of taking the higher line. Another positive about the Zandvoort Circuit is that it left no room for debate on track limits. Because its an old school circuit, gravel and grass were never far away from the drivers and that's the way it should be. It punished the Williams drivers on Saturday for making mistakes but it was just nice to have a race weekend where track limits were not up for debate! Now one downside to Zandvoort being a narrow, high-speed track is that it makes overtaking quite difficult. But the racing wasn't as bad as many expected. We saw quite a few overtakes into Turn 1 and the chicane at Turn 10 with the likes of Sergio Perez navigating through the field from his pit-lane start. Although we didn't get many on-track passes, the speed at which drivers were lapping made the 72 lap Grand Prix go by quickly and the strategic battle between Verstappen and Hamilton kept you on the edge of your seat. Hopefully with the new generation cars of 2022 and beyond, future races at Zandvoort will feature more overtakes but for now, the resounding sentiment amongst drivers and fans is that Zandvoort is an amazing track for Formula 1.
The Fan Atmosphere
Zandvoort is an area close to the sea and for three days this past weekend, the sea turned Orange with Max Verstappen supporters and proud Dutchies. Yes the fan atmosphere at Zandvoort is almost more talked about than the racing itself. The Orange Army has become infamous in the last few seasons travelling all across the world to support their driver. Seas of Orange have packed the grandstands in places like Austria and Belgium but it was finally time for them to return home and get their own Grand Prix that they greatly deserved. The stands were packed from the first session to the last and the Dutch supporters just got louder and louder as the weekend progressed. By the time we reached Sunday, it was getting harder and harder to actually see them as the Orange smoke engulfed the Zandvoort Circuit which gave us scenes we've rarely ever seen in Formula 1 before. The Italian Tifosi are the only fan base to rival the Orange Army but have we ever seen one driver get this much support and fan fare at their home race? It's an interesting question to debate and if you have an answer then please drop it in the comments below!
Even if you weren't Dutch, you couldn't help but enjoy the electric atmosphere from the fans. McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo likened the weekend to more of a festival than a Grand Prix thanks to the energy and volume of the Dutch supporters. Even Verstappen's title rival Lewis Hamilton was able to enjoy the atmosphere around the Zandvoort Circuit after finishing second to the home favorite. Things couldn't have gone any better for the fans in attendance as they got to witness the first Dutch driver to take pole and victory at his home circuit. So much pressure and expectation was on Max Verstappen to win this weekend and he treated the fans to an absolute dream result. “I know the fans of course have high expectations — when you come here they want you to win, but it is never that straightforward before you get here,” Verstappen said. "To deliver at the end of the day, very satisfied yesterday already with pole but to win the race...an incredible feeling to win in front of the fans, the King was watching as well with the family — an amazing day.”
The Final Verdict on the Dutch Grand Prix
It's quite clear that the return of the Dutch Grand Prix reached and even exceeded expectations. The challenges of the circuit made it a thrilling roller coaster ride for the drivers and it brought back some old school vibes to the calendar which have been missing from the new circuits. It was nice to see the drivers really make the difference in terms of performance and the old school tracks really bring the best out of the drivers. The racing itself might not have been as exciting but the energy brought from the crowd more than made up for it. It's important to remember that the return of the Dutch Grand Prix is in large part thanks to Max Verstappen and his supporters. Without the superstar talent of Verstappen, Zandvoort would have never been a front runner to return to the calendar and we would be missing out on a fantastic circuit. With the continued rise of Verstappen in Formula 1, the Dutch Grand Prix could become a leading destination for Formula 1 fans that rivals the likes of Monza and Monaco. The Dutch fans can be proud of the Grand Prix that they've hosted and it's added another great memory to the already long list of memorable moments in this 2021 season.