Race Facts – Dutch Grand Prix

Located in sand dunes near a popular seaside resort town, Circuit Zandvoort hosted the Dutch Grand Prix between 1948-1985 and makes a welcome return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2021.


All images taken at the 2019 Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix by Andrew Balfour. Read the report.

Zandvoort previously hosted the Dutch Grand Prix between 1948 and 1985. It was set to return to the calendar in 2020 after a 35 year-absence thanks to huge local support for Dutch driver Max Verstappen, but this plan has been put on hold by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unusually located among the sand dunes in a popular seaside resort, the Zandvoort circuit is situated 40km west of Amsterdam on the North Sea coast. The track was the sole host of the 30 previous Dutch Grands Prix. Dutch track designer John Hugenholtz, who designed the Suzuka circuit, is often wrongly attributed as being responsible for the Zandvoort track. Although he had ties to the circuit, it was actually a group of Dutch motorcyclist enthusiasts who designed the track with assistance from Sammy Davis, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1927.

The circuit opened in August 1948, hosting the “Zandvoort Grand Prix”. That became the Dutch Grand Prix in the following year, and the event joined the F1 calendar in 1952, only two years after the advent of the Modern World Championship. The track made use of communications roads built during the Second World War by the occupying German army. The 1952 and 1953 races were held to Formula 2 specifications, so it wasn’t until 1955 that F1 machinery first took on the challenges of the Zandvoort circuit. The original 4.2km track had multiple elevation changes, and featured fast, sweeping turns, such as the fearsome Tarzan corner.

The early years of the Dutch Grand Prix

The Dutch Grand Prix was not held every year between 1950 and 1985. Notably, the race fell off the calendar in 1972. There was a push to improve safety at Formula 1 events at the time, especially following Piers Courage’s fatal accident at Zandvoort in 1970. Dutch Grand Prix organisers lacked funds to improve safety, so drivers refused to race there and the event was dropped from the calendar. F1 returned to a much-improved Zandvoort the following year, but tragedy struck as Roger Williamson was killed after his car caught fire following a heavy crash. Despite this, Formula 1 continued to visit the track until 1985, when the company which owned the circuit went out of business. Although the track fell into disuse – and half of the track was sold to a bungalow park company in 1987 – it was modified in 1989 as a 2.6km layout, which became known as “Circuit Park Zandvoort”. By 2001, the track had been extended to 4.3km with new facilities, including a new pit building and new grandstands. Zandvoort has since become a regular fixture in junior categories; many current F1 drivers have experience at the circuit.

The return of the Dutch Grand Prix

After months, if not years, of speculation, the return of the Dutch Grand Prix was finally confirmed in May 2019. The meteoric rise of Max Verstappen is the driving factor behind the event’s comeback. Verstappen is Formula 1’s youngest Grand Prix winner and Dutch fans have boosted attendance figures at races across Europe since his debut in 2015. The grandstands will surely be awash with a sea of orange as the Red Bull driver’s loyal supporters will be out in force at his home event. Though the circuit only has a capacity of just over 100,000, it has been reported that over a million fans applied for tickets to the 2020 race. The return of the Dutch Grand Prix was postponed due to COVID-19, but it has now been rescheduled for September 2021. A sell-out crowd is expected for the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years.

An estimated €4 million was spent on Circuit Zandvoort to prepare for the return of Formula 1, with half of the funds earmarked to improve access to the circuit. Some corners, including Tarzan, Scheivlak and Kumho will have extended run-off areas. Other corners will be widened and the start/finish line will be moved to improve the spectator experience. The final corner, Arie Luyendijkbocht, will be slightly banked to allow more overtaking opportunity. Zandvoort holds a contract to host the Dutch Grand Prix until at least 2022.

Dutch Grand Prix: Did You Know?

  • The first Grand Prix at the track, during the pre-F1 era in 1948, was won by Prince Bira – the only Thai driver to race in Formula 1 until Alexander Albon made his debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.
  • Jo Bonnier recorded the only win, podium and pole position of his F1 career at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1959. It was also the first of 17 wins and 11 pole positions for BRM.
  • Jim Clark holds the record for the most wins at the Dutch Grand Prix, having won at Zandvoort on four occasions – in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967.
  • Carel Godin de Beaufort and Gijs van Lennep are the only Dutch drivers to have scored a point in their home race, after finishing sixth in 1962 and 1973 respectively. Verstappen will be hoping to become the third to do so in 2020.
  • At the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix, Jackie Stewart took his 26th win. In doing so, Stewart surpassed fellow Scot Jim Clark’s record of F1 wins. Stewart would win one more race in his career, and his tally of 27 wins would stand as the record until Alain Prost took his 28th Grand Prix victory in 1987.
  • The 1973 Dutch Grand Prix is also remembered for the dreadful accident of Roger Williamson. David Purley was awarded the George Medal for bravery after attempting to save Williamson from his burning wreck.
  • The circuit has hosted 30 races so far in Formula 1’s history. It sits eleventh in the all-time list of circuits to have hosted the most F1 races.
  • During its 30 F1 races so far, 49 different drivers have finished on the podium.
  • Clark also led the most laps of any driver at Zandvoort, leading 370 laps. Alberto Ascari and Niki Lauda are second in the all-time list, having led 180 laps – almost 200 less than Clark!
  • Local legend has it that the infamous Tarzan corner is a homage to a man who would only relinquish his vegetable garden on the plot of land where the circuit was to be built if the track had a corner named after him.
  • In 1985, Lauda took the final victory of his Formula 1 career in the final Dutch Grand Prix.
  • Graham Hill took the first podium finish of his career at the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix.

Dutch Grand Prix Facts

Circuit Name Circuit Zandvoort
Race first held 1948
Track Length4.307km (14 turns)
Race DistanceTBC
Lap Record1:16.538, Alain Prost (McLaren, 1985)
1985 result1st Niki Lauda (McLaren) 1:32:29.263
2nd Alain Prost (McLaren) +0.232s
3rd Ayrton Senna (Lotus) +48.491s

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