Bratches admits interest in Dutch Grand Prix

Weeks after the FIA’s Charlie Whiting admitted that Zandvoort has the potential to host a round of the Formula One World Championship (again), the sport’s commercial boss, Sean Bratches, has confirmed that FOM is interested in racing in Holland.

Since 1952, Holland has hosted thirty rounds of the Formula One World Championship, all of them at the coastal track of Zandvoort.

Though the last Dutch Grand Prix was in 1985, the increasing popularity of Max Verstappen – whose Orange Army follows him around the world – has led to speculation that Formula One Management might seek to exploit his popularity by taking F1 back to Holland.

Speaking at the weekend, Bratches admitted that the idea is very much on the table.

“We are very interested in racing in Holland,” he told Reuters. “We are having productive conversations there and I am cautiously optimistic we can do something to surprise and delight fans in that territory and take advantage of the Max factor.

Local media suggests a Dutch round could be on the calendar as early as 2020, the year Vietnam joins the schedule.

Only last month, Charlie Whiting, following a visit to Zandvoort, was equally enthusiastic.

“I think there’s great potential there,” he said. “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.”

Asked if the track would need to be modified, Whiting replied: “Not a lot, the amount of work is relatively minimal.

“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.”

Bratches comment comes days after F1 boss Chase Carey warned that a number of existing races will be replaced, and while he stressed FOM’s desire to make the calendar more diverse, he warned that this could come at the cost of existing races where the deals are unfavourable.

“We expect to expand our calendar beyond our current 21 race schedule,” he said. “Expansion will be modest but we have been excited by the number, quality and diversity of new locations interested in hosting a race.

“We expect to replace a few existing races where we inherited unattractive agreements with new events or agreements that are better for racing and provide more value,” he added.”

As it stands, no less than nine races have their contracts come to an end before 2020, most notably Britain, Brazil, Italy and Germany, in total they bring in an annual estimated total of $226.6m, however, while stressing the need for diversification, Carey admits that the sport is also targeting “destination cities” as race venues, which – in one’s wildest dreams – does not apply to Zandvoort.

While Carey talks of new sponsors, teams and engine manufacturers, Bratches is confident of new races.

“We’re in an extraordinary favourable position I think, in the pole position if you will, in terms of Formula One being an attractive product for countries around the world,” said the American. “From a brand standpoint, from a history standpoint our intention is to renew the heritage circuits. We think it’s an important part of Formula One.

“But at the same time we’re a publicly traded company, we’re a business, we have obligations to our partners and the teams to maximise the investment that they are making into the sport and we’re going to try to balance that with the complexities of some of these negotiations.”