Whiting: Zandvoort has potential

While hopes of a race through the streets of Copenhagen have been dashed, Miami is delayed until (at least 2020) and Vietnam has still to be confirmed, Charlie Whiting has given a provisional thumbs up to a home race for Max Verstappen and his ‘Orange Army’.

While there has been talk of a return to Zandvoort for some time, the circuit having hosted the Dutch Grand Prix on thirty occasions between 1952 and 1985, in February this year it was revealed that Liberty Media, via Formula 1 Licencing BV, had filed a trademark application for the Dutch Grand Prix.

The application, which was filed on 30 January, is for full rights to articles and services, which refers not only to the event but related merchandise, and came just weeks after Whiting had visited Assen, more noted for its 2-wheel racing.

Whiting’s visit confirmed that only minor changes would be required to the Assen circuit including additional kerbing, guardrails and barriers at certain points on the track.

Speaking in Sochi at the weekend however, Whiting, who recently visited Zandvoort, admitted that a return to the iconic seaside track was still possible.

“I think there’s great potential there,” he told reporters. “A few things need to be changed, and there’s a great willingness to change. But I think it’s rather too early to be talking about that.

“They’re coming back to us with some proposals,” he added, “and we’ll see purely from a circuit point of view, nothing to do with the commercial elements of it, but from a circuit safety point of view I think it could be done.

“There would be a nice long straight good enough to use DRS well, and you’d maintain the historic elements of the circuit as well. I think it would be a very nice circuit.”

In May last year, cheered on by a typically fervent crowd Max Verstappen unofficially broke the lap record at Zandvoort while at the wheel of a 2012 Red Bull, returning again earlier this year he did it again.

“I know from my Formula 3 days that Zandvoort is a great circuit,” he subsequently told reporters. “There is way more grip now with the new tarmac. It is more comfortable to drive on, because there aren’t that many bumps anymore, that’s very positive.”

Asked about the possible return of F1 to the track, he said: “If it was up to me, we’d have it here already.

“Of course that would be very nice but there is more to it like a budget and the infrastructure,” he added. “A lot needs to be done in order to be able to organise this.”

When asked if the track would need to be modified, Whiting replied: “Not a lot.

“The amount of work is relatively minimal,” he added.

“I went to look at it from a safety point of view,” he stressed. “Could the track be modified to cope with modern F1 cars? That’s all. How big the paddocks are, access, where you are going to put spectators is not something that I would get involved in normally.”

Then of course there’s the little matter of how much a promoter would be willing to pay in race fees, and judging by the size of the ‘Orange Army’ that seems to follow Verstappen around the world, that wouldn’t appear to be an issue.