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F1 Returns to Netherlands, Gravel Traps to Stay

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Zandvoort Circuit
Photo: dronepicr | Flickr

Formula One will return to the Netherlands next year at the Zandvoort circuit, which was last used to host the Dutch Grand Prix in 1985 after a 37-year run on the calendar.

And while most modern tracks feature expansive, asphalt run-off areas for cars that go off track, the designer responsible for renovating Zandvoort ahead of F1’s return says the old-school gravel traps will remain as they are part of its “heritage.”

“FOM requested it because of the heritage of the track,” said Jarno Zaffelli, owner of the circuit engineering firm Dromo that was commissioned to bring Zandvoort up to F1 standards. “The track [owners] asked for it. And as you know we are more than happy to have gravel instead of asphalt if we think that it is not necessary.”

Asphalt run-off areas are typically preferred to gravel because they are more effective in slowing the car down, but Zaffelli believes the steepness of the traps at Zandvoort will make it very difficult for cars to ever make contact with the barriers.

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Many fans prefer gravel traps because they more strongly punish drivers who make mistake, while drivers often use asphalt run-off areas to try to gain more time off-track.

Zandvoort has changed a lot since it was last featured on the F1 calendar, and as part of the update will get an 18-degree banking at the long final corner.

However, it’s questionable whether returning to Zandvoort is a right move for F1 when the calendar is already full of circuits that don’t produce good racing. By F1 standards, Zandvoort is a small track, with very few — if any — real opportunities to overtake.

It’s obvious the powers that be wanted to tap into the massive Dutch fanbase that exploded into being when young racing star Max Verstappen began competing in F1. It remains to be seen whether the fans will still like the race when it turns out it’s almost as hard to overtake at Zandvoort as in Monaco.

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