Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Zandvoort, 2018

No asphalt run-off at Zandvoort: F1 wants “heritage” gravel traps to stay

2019 F1 season

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The designer responsible for renovating Zandvoort ahead of Formula 1’s returns to the circuit next year has been told its gravel traps are part of the “heritage of the track” and should not be replaced with asphalt run-off.

The Dutch Grand Prix will form part of the 2020 F1 calendar as Zandvoort is set to hold its first world championship race for 35 years.

The seaside track 30 kilometres west of Amsterdam has been heavily revised since Niki Lauda won the last Dutch Grand Prix in 1985. However unlike many modern courses almost all of its corners, including the high-speed Scheivlak right-hander, are bordered by gravel traps.

Many other circuits have replaced gravel traps with asphalt run-offs. But Jarno Zaffelli, owner of circuit architects Dromo who have been commissioned to bring the track up to F1 standards, told RaceFans “we have no asphalt planned in the run-offs”.

Documents seen by RaceFans indicate the current gravel traps will remain in place, with no additional asphalt border between them and the track limits. Hugenholtz, the left-hand hairpin which leads the cars away from the paddock, will retain its asphalt run-off.

Zaffelli confirmed the circuit owners and Formula 1 Management both want to keep the gravel traps. “We are keeping the gravel,” he said. “This was one of the requests from all the parties.

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How Zandvoort will change to host its first F1 race for 35 years
“FOM requested it because of the heritage of the track. 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.”

The incline in Zandvoort’s gravel traps should be sufficient to prevent cars making heavy contact with barriers, said Zaffelli.

“[It has] dunes, run-offs that are unique in the world. So it’s very difficult to arrive to barriers in many places because they are too steep. So it will be an immense challenge.”

The news is likely to be welcomed by drivers, many of which have criticised the growing use of asphalt run-offs for making tracks too forgiving. George Russell, who last raced at the track in 2016, said earlier this year he hopes its gravel traps are left untouched.

Other upgrades are planned at the circuit to bring it into line with modern F1 standards. These changes, including the addition of an 18-degree banking at the final corner, require approval from the FIA Circuits Commission before building work begins in next for next year’s race.

Zaffelli confirmed all changes to the track configuration, including the banking, should be ready in time for the 2020 race. “The works we start in November,” he said. “We’re planning to finish the work by March.

“So there is plenty of time to do what we need to do on-track and all the rest. We are not concerned about the delivery, only about the weather.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 27 comments on “No asphalt run-off at Zandvoort: F1 wants “heritage” gravel traps to stay”

    1. Very good to hear this, it’ll be interesting to see how many drivers are “punished”.

      Seeing as the banking is likely to come in for 2020, is there any word on whether Pirelli are now OK with the proposed banking? Particularly with the large sidewalls that’ll still be in place next year.

      1. We certainly wont see drivers like Ricciardo, Leclerc and Verstappen going off the track to overtake or defend.

        1. Vettel and Grosjean probably will, though.

    2. I’ll tell you now, the stewards better start thinking already about situations like LEC-VER in Austria, I mean what if LEC lost another 10 places because of the gravel trap?!?! Think about it, boys!

      1. Thats why drivers will be more cautious about overtaking or defending and those gravel traps would mean less stewarding as gravel traps will claim their victims. Look at Ricciardo’s dirty overtaking moves in Austria and Silverstone going off the track to overtake and no longer can drivers complain about stewards.

        1. @Chaitanya Ricciardo didn’t overtake anyone in Austria nor Silverstone by going off the track, though, LOL.

          1. Think he meant France where he said Austria

      2. @mg1982 Leclerc wouldn’t have lost another 10 places in Austria when there had been a gravel trap, because he would have yielded knowing he would eventually run out of space. Whether that is fair or not is a different debate that I don’t want to dig up again.

        1. Verstappen certainly won’t be overtaking whilst completely off the circuit like at Silverstone!

          1. @asanator

            Yes, both CL and Max would have been in the gravel if it was there in Silverstone, see how that works..

            1. petebaldwin (@)
              19th July 2019, 18:04

              That’s how you race though – you get the most out of everything. If you have a snap of oversteer and go wide, you just bury your foot and go off the track. If there is gravel there, you have to respect the track limits and slow down so you are punished for your mistake. It’s not just about being punished for going off into the gravel.

              With asphalt, the driver on the outside (whether he’s alongside or not) will always look to keep his foot buried and if they get pushed off, it doesn’t really affect them too much. They’ll obviously complain they were pushed off the track but in reality, the overtaking driver who would have had to brake late going into the corner is only taking the racing line.

              With gravel, when drivers are not quite alongside, they back off if they are on the outside because they don’t want to lose any more time. They have been overtaken and can clearly see the point where they should give up the position. When they are fully alongside, they won’t get pushed off the track because they have nowhere to go and pushing them wide will result in contact.

    3. DAllein (@)
      19th July 2019, 9:59

      Good, good, the snow looks better on gravel surface.

      1. @dallein You do know that it’s an average of 16 degrees Celsius in May in Zandvoort?,zandvoort,Netherlands

        Although I get your point, Zandvoort will probably be the coldest race on the calendar (on average). Interesting to see which teams will experience difficulties getting heat into the tyres.

        1. Interesting to see which teams will experience difficulties getting heat into the tyres.

          I think all of them.

          Pirelli will have to up the tire pressure significantly for this race because of the heavily banked final corner. This will make it even harder to get temps into the tires and the tires will feel like driving on ice. No grip anywhere, whatsoever.

          A track that’s already impossible to overtake on, having no margin for error (gravel) and the feeling of driving with no grip on braking nor acceleration, will make the racing even worse than at Monaco, basically.

          1. @jeffreyj I can hear you are clearly not a fan. But the higher tyre pressures will surely make it easier to heat the tyres than harder?

            1. @matthijs I’m not, no. It’s a mickey-mouse track that generally produces very boring F3 and DTM races. I don’t see that changing when F1 comes there.

              I’m no tire expert so someone correct me if I’m wrong here, but I am under the assumption that low pressure means a bigger contact-patch and therefore more grip. It will also mean a bigger part of the tire scrubbing along the tarmac, creating more heat in the tire. Vice versa with higher tire pressures.

    4. Have dates been released for the race yet? I can’t remember when the calendar usually gets released..

      1. @s-w-webb1 it is supposed to be in place of Spain, hence May.

        1. It has to be be mid May I think.

          The first weekend of May is a national holiday in the Netherlands and there will be festivals all over the country. This means there’s not going to be enough police to guarantee safety. Meanwhile the end of May is the Monaco GP weekend, which has never been moved.

    5. That is great news. But they will need a lot of cranes as the drivers have got used to going off with no penalty. They will need to be very much more careful.
      Perhaps RaceFans could have a vote as to who will be first off, stuck in the gravel and the session red flagged during practice.

      1. But they will need a lot of cranes as the drivers have got used to going off with no penalty.

        I’m guessing that your comment is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but if not: I don’t think it will make much of a difference. After lap 1 (probably before lap 1) the drivers will know where you can exploit the runoff and where not.

    6. Don’t know if Racefans already posted this, but this is very interesting:

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        19th July 2019, 18:09

        If that sketch is accurate, the braking zone for Hanst Ernst is going to be interesting… You can clearly see that overtaking isn’t going to be easy but with the decision made that drivers will be punished for making mistakes on this track, it should still be an exciting race.

        1. “Close but not enough! Nice try”

          Was the reply by Jarno Zaffelli on twitter.

    7. SanFran (@andrewfrancis80)
      19th July 2019, 14:32

      “[It has] dunes, run-offs that are unique in the world. So it’s very difficult to arrive to barriers in many places because they are too steep. So it will be an immense challenge.”

      I’m sure Romain Grosjean will give it a damn good go… He likes a challenge!!

    8. Adub Smallblock
      20th July 2019, 3:39

      I will be interested in seeing if the drivers who approve of keeping the gravel traps sing the same song if/after they go off during the race and have to pit for tires/radiator clearing and possibly replacing front wings. I’m not against keeping the gravel, I just think drivers have been so conditioned to being able to make overly aggressive moves resulting in offs with little or no penalty.

    Comments are closed.