Zandvoort's all about big b*****ks — not DRS passes, says circuit designer


A short DRS zone doesn't spell the end of overtaking at Zandvoort, says the man who redesigned the track for F1; the circuit is designed for proper racing

Lewis Hamilton at Zandvoort on an electric scooter

Lewis Hamilton checks out the challenge of Zandvoort by electric scooter

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

The man behind Zandvoort’s redevelopment has dismissed concerns that this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix will be a procession, saying that the circuit has been designed to allow driving talent to shine.

Jarno Zaffelli, owner of the Dromo track design firm, says that the layout is deliberately designed to disorientate drivers, and that the best will be able to find their way past other cars.

It has been suggested that this will reduce overtaking, but Zaffelli said that the short, tight circuit offered more opportunities than it might seem.

“This track is not about overtaking with DRS. That’s for other kinds of circuits with long straights,” he said.

“Here, it is about big bollocks. In the end, this is racing.

“Everybody remembers Senna for how he drove over the limit — counter-steering at 300km/h (186mph).

“Now it’s very difficult for drivers to do that for a lot of reasons in the modern era. But on this track, at some point, they have to do it otherwise they will go slow.

“There are multiple lines through several corners and that is why we expect there will be overtaking opportunities.”

Zandvoort has been redesigned within the confines of protected sand dunes and a holiday villages. Straights could not be extended and so banked corners have been created to increase speeds, while other parts have been reconfigured.

In today’s pre-race press conferences, Pierre Gasly spoke of the circuit’s “funny corners” and Zaffelli said that the range of curves, combined with the banking and “rollercoaster” gradients will come as a shock to those who have only experienced a lap on a simulator.

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“Even if they did hundreds of laps in the simulators… it’s like downhill skiing: you watch it on television and think, ‘OK, not bad’, but if you go yourself, it’s something different.

“Zandvoort is all about the perception of the driver. It’s all about what the driver is feeling and looking at because he’s not used to these geometries, he’s not used to these inclinations. He’s not used to the curves.”

The kerbs have even been painted with rectangles of differing sizes to alter drivers’ perception of speed.

“Our philosophy behind it is to try and cheat the driver’s perceptions,” said Zaffelli. “So it’s all about using the nature, using the shapes, using the geometries that we have coupled with a specific asphalt, specific techniques, all these kinds of things to put something together that is unique.

“This opens up a concept where human behaviour is at the centre. These are the best drivers in the world probably, we absolutely need to challenge them.

“We need to get back this human feeling. Just a bit like in motorcycling where the man is more important than the machine. Here we are trying to see the difference between boy and man.”

Overhead view of F1 trucks unloading at Zandvoort

Trucks unload at Zandvoort: the orange and white kerb sections vary in size

Remko de Waal/AFP via Getty Images

The updated Zandvoort circuit is said to have opened up multiple lines through at least six of the 14 corners, offering drivers greater rewards with increased risks.

Zaffelli expects to see a variety of routes through the 180-degree Tarzan Corner at the end of the main straight, but he’ll be watching at the dramatic Hugenholtz corner, Turn Three: a bowl with banking at up to 19 degrees, which is crucial for the run through the next four corners.

He previously told Motor Sport that this section would be “scary” to drive, with drivers able to gain up to a second if they can find the fastest line.

“This track is not a track that you can learn in 20 laps, 30 laps or 50 laps,” he said.

The Italian, who worked on the resurfacing of Silverstone and is also helping with the Yas Marina redesign, said that DRS was never intended to be used in the final corner of the circuit this year, given the unique nature of the banking.

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“Since the beginning [F1 race director] Michael Masi was very clear that he wanted to test the corner without DRS,” he said.

“No other track in the Formula 1 circus has these kind of corners. This justifies completely the fact that we need to start from the safe side.”

Elsewhere in the pitlane, engineers will also be studying the results of the first track running closely, as they try to find a balance between the high speed and vertical loads of the banking, with the lateral acceleration on other parts of the track.

“If you compromise the balance of the car for the bankings because [otherwise] you would lose a lot of time in Turn Three, you will lose your mechanical grip in turns eight-ten, he said.

“There will be a lot to talk about [after practice] on Friday.”