A Visit to Circuit Zandvoort

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Circuit Zandvoort is a classic old-school circuit with a rich Formula 1 pedigree, but can it cope with the expected influx of more than 100,000 fans for the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix? We visited for the Historic Grand Prix earlier this month to find out.

In a little over 7 months, the “Oranje Army” will descend on the small seaside town of Zandvoort, 30 minutes from Amsterdam, for the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix. The “Max factor” has contributed to huge demand for the first Dutch Grand Prix in 35 years. More than a million applications were received for just 100,000 tickets and the event is a sell-out. But can the organizers complete the necessary circuit changes and deliver a decent fan experience for so many fans?  On the strength of our visit last week, it’s going to be an uphill challenge, certainly for 2020.

Circuit Changes

The Dutch Grand Prix organizers are planning a series of changes to the layout of Zandvoort to make it safe (and improve the spectacle) for modern Formula 1, as detailed by Racefans.net. These include the construction of banking on the final corner so that cars can take it at full throttle. It is not yet known if the run off areas, which are currently gravel, will be paved like most other modern F1 circuits. Zandvoort will be a challenging circuit, but whether modern F1 cars will be able to overtake here is another question mark.

This week, it was reported that an injunction was sought in a court in Haarlem to halt construction works at the circuit based on environmental grounds. Despite this, the organizers have reportedly already sold more than 35,000 tickets for the 2021 Dutch Grand Prix. Dutch Grand Prix ambassador and former F1 driver Jan Lammers says everything is on track, though the biggest construction works will not start until later this month.

First Impressions

The taxi from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport cost 80 EUR, though a train service (with one change) is available. Our base for the weekend was an apartment in the town centre of Zandvoort, rented via Airbnb. It was close to the train station and only 20 minutes’ walk from the circuit gates. I hate to think what it will cost for the first weekend in May next year, though it’s probably already been reserved. The weather wasn’t great on arrival, and didn’t improve much all weekend. Temperatures hovered around 15-20 degrees Celsius and it rained a lot, though the sun did make one or two appearances. I was told by a local that the weather is much better in spring, though the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix is scheduled for the first weekend in May after a long winter in Northern Europe. Being located so close to the North Sea, prevailing winds will also be a factor.

A walk Around the Circuit…in the Rain

I left the comfortable surrounds of the Paddock Club on the inside of Turn 1 (Tarzan) to check out the circuit. I was already beyond the point of no return by the time the rain started to fall heavily. It’s possible to walk right around the entire circuit on a network of unpaved paths, raised high above the track on the sand dunes with excellent views. Grandstands are planned for some of the best corners, but the general admission areas promise some of the best spectating on the calendar, provided some money is spent on sealing the paths in readiness for a huge amount of foot traffic. Temporary facilities will need to be provided as well; there’s only a handful of permanent toilets in the pits building at Zandvoort.

Did you know?

Circuit Zandvoort is part owned by a Dutch Prince. The circuit was sold in 2016 to a new company with an impressive sounding name, Chapman Andretti Partners. One of the partners is Prince Bernhard Lucas Emmanuel of Orange-Nassau, van Vollenhoven; he’s the second son of Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and a lifelong motorsport fan.

Paddock & Pits

The pits building is not the most modern of structures, but it’s going to have to do for Formula 1 as there is no time to build another one before the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix. The rooftop area (currently an open terrace) will be transformed into the Formula 1 Paddock Club. The first floor above the pits is also set up for hospitality, though further details of have not yet been announced by the organizers. F1 Experiences is selling Paddock Club and Champions Club access. The latter is set to be located on the final, newly-banked corner named after Dutch legend Arie Luyendyk. There’s also a couple of permanent bars in the pits complex; the high end Bernies, which is associated with the adjacent beach club of the same name and the more down to earth Mickey’s, where we enjoyed a few beers while watching Charles Leclerc win the Italian Grand Prix.

Zandvoort

The town of Zandvoort is a popular seaside resort. Beach bars line the wide sandy beach, but there’s not many hotels. The Dutch love camping of course, and there’s plenty of camping located next to the circuit. Still, the local accommodation is not expected to meet the demands on Grand Prix weekend. The organizers are counting on most fans taking the train to the circuit. The city of Haarlem and the Dutch capital Amsterdam are within easy commuting distance, but additional trains will be needed to cope with the large number of fans travelling to the circuit on race weekend. A “Park & Ride” facility away from the track is also planned, but the small roads in and out of both the circuit (and the town of Zandvoort itself) will still be stretched to their limits on race weekend.

Historic Grand Prix

This annual event was a great introduction to a classic circuit, though the daily attendance was only a fraction of the number expected for next year’s Dutch Grand Prix. Twelve different categories of cars were in action, including historic F1, F2 and F3 cars plus the FIA Historic Sportscar Championship. Read more here. One of the highlights was a parade through the centre of town on Saturday evening. You can definitely expect a good atmosphere at the many bars and restaurants in Zandvoort next May.

Final Thoughts

We are pretty sure the organizers will complete the planned track upgrades ready for the race next May, but the bigger issue is the current lack of facilities for spectators. There’s only one permanent grandstand at the circuit currently, opposite the pits. Additional temporary grandstands and hospitality suites are to be added, but there’s a lot of work to be done in a very short period of time, especially when it comes to access gates, walking paths, toilets, parking and other facilities around the circuit. Remember the return of the French Grand Prix in 2018, which was blighted by poor organization, especially traffic and parking? I fear that we will see a similar situation in Zandvoort next year, but hope to be proved wrong. The good news is that the Dutch Grand Prix is set to return for at least 3 years, so there is time to make further improvements to Zandvoort for future editions of the race.

Check out our new guide to the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

Comments (1)

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  1. Vic says:

    We live in Rijswijk (Den Haag) area and we will be taking the train every day to the circuit. It is about 40 minutes from either Hollands Spoor or Den Haag Centraal to Haarlem. The Randstaad is very well connected with tram/rail infrastructure so I would say to people not to be too focussed on Amsterdam for accommodation etc. You could also get the ferry to Hoek van Holland as well! Also – BRING A FIETS (BIKE)!! I cycle up to Zandvoort for some events (DTM last year,British racing festival etc). From my home to the circuit is about 38km – about 2 hours. It is a beautiful cycle up through the dunes/coast. Also it is only about 9km from Haarlem station to the circuit. One of the main modes of transport being accommodated is bicycles. From what I have seen already entry by car is going to be heavily regulated. There may be peripheral car parks (out by Haarlem and further) where people will be asked to park. It is unlikely the entry/exit roads to Zandvoort will be improved as part of the project. I hope this provides an insight. As a regular attender of Zandvoort in rain, hail or shine – as much as I love the place to bits – I am one of the ‘wait and see’ people over here as to whether Jan Lammers and Bernard van Oranje and their team can pull all the engineering off for this. There is also a court case ongoing re. disruption of the dunes etc via an environmental group (Rust in de Kust) which may determine what can/cannot be done.

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