Today the worst kept secret in the Formula One paddock was finally confirmed to be true, as it was announced that the Dutch Grand Prix will return to the F1 calendar in 2020, ending a 35-year hiatus. The addition of race – to be held at the historic Zandvoort circuit – means that there will be two new races on the calendar next year, with the Dutch GP joining the Vietnam GP in Hanoi. But who wins and who loses as a result of this announcement?
Max Verstappen – Winner
The biggest beneficiary from this news is, undoubtedly, Max Verstappen. It is down to his rising stardom that F1 has come back to the sporting fore in the Netherlands, allowing the Dutch GP to make a comeback. Verstappen – who is also half-Belgian – has considered the Belgian GP as his ‘home race’ throughout his career, but many of his legion of fans who attend the race travel across the border from the Netherlands. He has a track record of performing well in front of his fans too: his win at last year’s Austrian GP, where the Max Verstappen fans filled a stand covering the infield of the Red Bull Ring, was absolutely sensational and was the Dutchman at his absolute best. If one thing is for sure, the Dutch GP will be very loud, very passionate and very, very orange.
Spain, Germany, Britain and Mexico – Losers
Today’s news will not be warmly received by four of the current tracks on the calendar, however. Liberty Media have already confirmed that there will be 21 races on the 2020 calendar, matching the number of races on this year’s calendar. That means that with the addition of the Dutch GP, alongside the introduction of the Vietnam GP, two current races will not run next season. There are currently four races that do not have a contract beyond the end of 2019: the Spanish GP, German GP, British GP and Mexican GP. The Spanish GP is believed to be first in line to be culled, with dwindling attendances and Fernando Alonso’s exit from the sport a major factor in the race’s decline.
That, however, still leaves one surplus race. Whilst Silverstone had to deny reports that a three-year extension had been agreed recently, it seems inconceivable that the British GP would fall off the calendar, especially with Lewis Hamilton still competing for World Championships. The Mexican GP is also a popular race, and Sergio Perez is still a star in his home country. The German GP, however, has had issues for many years now. In 2015 and 2017 it fell off the calendar, with the financially troubled Nürburgring unable to host the race in its designated year. Hockenheim has hosted the race in even numbered years, but was unable to step in to host the race in 2015 and 2017, and only did so this year as the contract was renegotiated. It is a well-known fact that the race is running at a considerable loss, and despite Sebastian Vettel being a four-time World Champion, attendances have been significantly down since Michael Schumacher’s retirement. A great day for the Netherlands may well be a dark day for German F1.
Liberty Media – Winners
Commercially, this is a massive win for Liberty Media. The capitalisation on Max Verstappen’s rising stardom seems sure to create a race weekend where the stands and sand banks of Zandvoort will be packed to the rafters. The reintroduction of the Dutch GP may well bring the sport to a new audience in the Netherlands, many of whom would not have been alive the last time the country hosted Formula One. In a time where Liberty Media needs to increase its viewership of the sport to show that they care for its long-term future, the reintroduction of this race will be a welcome boost for the Formula One paymasters.
Fans of overtaking – Losers
There is one major issue with the Dutch GP (unless, of course, you are an avid fan of the Spanish GP). It’s not the fans, it’s not the nation, and it’s not the fees being paid for the race – it’s the track. Zandvoort is a great track, rich in history and is a special track, one of the last tracks to be untouched with swathes of black run-off. But is it really a suitable track for modern day F1? In a time where tracks regularly feature straights over a kilometre long, Zandvoort has no straight as long as 700m. It’s a narrow, bumpy and winding track, and it’s hard to see where any overtaking opportunities might arise. The first turn – the historic Tarzan bend – seems like the best opportunity, but will cars be able to follow each other through the long last turn onto the front straight? Whilst the sight of F1 cars roaring around Zandvoort at racing speed for the first time in 35 years will be a fantastic sight, the race itself could be somewhat of an eyesore.