Max Verstappen travels to the home game in Zandvoort with three wins in a row. Can the competition from Ferrari and Mercedes still stop the world champion? In the preview we have the latest information about the Netherlands Grand Prix.
Who can stop Max Verstappen? The Red Bull driver recently drove everything into the ground. Even double-digit grid positions, such as in Budapest or Spa-Francorchamps, didn't stop the champion from climbing back onto the top step of the podium at the end. Above all, the demonstration of power in Belgium in the past few weeks should have made a lasting impression on the competition.
Of course, Verstappen would love to triumph again on home soil. Just like last year, when Zandvoort gave its big comeback party after 36 years away from the Formula 1 calendar. Around 70,000 fans carried the local hero to victory back then. 12 months ago, however, the grandstands were only allowed to be filled by two-thirds because of Corona. This year the house is completely full.
The mood will be great, also because of the changed starting situation in the World Cup standings. Last year, Verstappen came second in the World Cup and left as the leader. This year, the 24-year-old comes to the North Sea coast with a 93-point lead. The World Cup train has almost left for the pursuers. But of course Ferrari and Mercedes would like to prevent the fourth Oranje celebration in a row.
Maybe the weather gods will help in the end so that another pilot dusts off the winner's trophy again. Some heavy rain showers are forecast for Saturday and Sunday, which could throw things upside down on the slopes. The fans should pack umbrellas, but unlike at Spa, thick clothes are not necessary. The mercury is said to easily rise above the 20°C mark every day.
The route: Circuit Park Zandvoort
The teams had to travel around 300 kilometers from Spa-Francorchamps to Zandvoort with heavy luggage. The Circuit de Zandvoort, which opened in 1948, is located west of the capital Amsterdam. From there it is about 30 minutes by train to the holiday resort on the North Sea coast.
The 4.259-kilometre circuit is picturesquely embedded in the dunes and has retained the charm of an old-school race track despite the modernization work in recent years. Narrow passages alternate with rapid sequences of bends. You could also say: It starts slowly at first, then it gets very fast in the middle part with a meandering, and towards the end it slows down again.
You can't afford major mistakes. The run-off zones are not very spacious - and they are mostly not paved, but laid out with gravel or grass. This applies in particular to the very fast section between turns 4 and 8.The meandering is flown through at speeds far beyond the 200 km/h mark.
The Tarzan hairpin at the end of start-finish is particularly striking - a 180-degree right-hand bend that is banked. It's the best overtaking spot because the drivers brake from over 300 km/h. The sensors measure deceleration values of around 5g here. The braking zone in front of curve 11 is similarly hard.
The Hugenholtzbocht (curve 3, around 110 km/h) and the target curve called Arie-Luyendijk-Bocht, which reach around 260 km/h, have an incline of between 18 and 19 degrees is taken. The gradient there is about twice as pronounced as in the Indianapolis oval.
There aren't really long straights in Zandvoort. In order to increase the chance of overtaking manoeuvres, the FIA wants to try out in free practice on Friday this year whether the DRS can already be released in the banked target curve so that pursuers can suckle in on their opponents over a longer distance.
At the first guest appearance on the renovated track last year, those responsible did not take this risk. The DRS zone only began on the home straight. The question is how big the challenge will be for the pilots when they shoot through the last corner with minimized downforce.
Last year, the teams still had to trust the simulations. At least the engineers have some data now. However, the cars are very different now. With its fluid layout, Zandvoort has a little bit of everything. There are technically demanding sequences that require mechanical grip. Like Turns 3, 11 and 12. Here you need traction from the slow corners. The many fast corners require downforce.
All in all, this speaks for a compromise and a medium to high level of downforce. In any case, the cars have to be equipped with significantly larger wings than last time at Spa-Francorchamps. The cars mustn't be parked too low for the laps in the dunes because the asphalt isn't flat as a rock. For example, there is a nasty bump in the area around turn 6 (Rob-Slotemaker-Bocht).
As in the previous year, Pirelli supplies the hardest compounds (C1-C2-C3). At a minimum, teams must inflate the front tire to 23.5 psi. A minimum of 21.5 psi is required for the rear. The Italians were a bit worried about the high stress in the steep curves before their comeback last year. Now Pirelli arrives much more relaxed. We fear that most pilots will again resort to a one-stop strategy.
This section of text will get shorter from race to race. Teams are shifting more and more of their resources to the 2023 model. The location of the Holland guest appearance in the middle of a triple header between Spa and Monza does not exactly speak for an upgrade festival. But we expect at least small things on the aero side from the top teams to increase downforce.
There could be a need for action at Mercedes. Engineers fear Lewis Hamilton may have damaged the engine or gearbox in the accident with Fernando Alonso at Spa. After the flight, deceleration values of 45g were measured on impact with the asphalt. Installing a new power unit would relegate the seven-time champion to the bottom of the field. Because of the moderate overtaking opportunities, the team would certainly try everything to postpone a move to Monza.
After three Verstappen wins in a row, only risky gamblers should bet on another driver. The Red Bull driver recently showed dominance, as seen last time from Sebastian Vettel in the second half of the 2013 season. At that time, the man from Heppenheim won nine races in a row. You have to trust Verstappen to do everything. Also that he breaks this record this year.
But Ferrari should at least be a little closer again. The red cars from Maranello at Spa lacked the necessary aerodynamic efficiency to keep up with the Red Bull competition. More downforce and traction are required again in Zandvoort – two disciplines in which the F1-75 can shine.
Mercedes often presented itself as a grab bag this year. Circuits on which the Silver Arrow should actually be strong, such as Silverstone or Spa, suddenly became bitter failures. On the other hand, the works team shone on courses where you didn't expect much, like Spielberg or Budapest. The engineers warn that the bumps in Zandvoort should not taste the car. Maybe there will be another surprise.
In midfield, too, we expect the order to be mixed up compared to Zandvoort. McLaren, Haas and Alfa Romeo are likely to rise again. Alpine, Alpha Tauri and Williams have to fight more. The biggest question mark hovers over Aston Martin. The green car is a moody diva. Most recently, the form curve of the Vettel team rose and fell several times even within race weekends.
Review - GP Netherlands 2021
As already mentioned, Max Verstappen not only celebrated victory last year but also took over the championship lead. The fact that the race didn't offer a lot of variety in terms of excitement, tactics and overtaking maneuvers shouldn't have bothered the fans in the grandstands. After 72 laps, pole setter Verstappen crossed the finish line with a lead of 20 seconds. Red Bull confidently countered the two attempts at the pit stop undercut by Mercedes.
Valtteri Bottas completed the podium in third place. Starting with Pierre Gasly in fourth place, all the remaining drivers were lapped by the front runners. Mick Schumacher finished in last place. After the race, there was a stink in the Haas camp because teammate Nikita Mazepin almost pushed him into the pit wall while defending in the early stages.
Schedule GP Netherlands
Compared to most other European races, Friday practice and Saturday sessions start a little earlier. The start of the race is, as usual, on Sunday at 3 p.m.