The collective sigh reverberated around the world last Sunday as race director Michael Massey called off the Belgian Grand Prix after two ‘laps’ behind the safety car at a drenched Spa-Francorchamps. The shortest Formula 1 race in history has resulted in the sport announcing it will change the rules to avoid a recurrence of events in Belgium. FIA president, Jean Todt said the rules would be reviewed “to see what can be learned and improved”.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen walked away with the victory after qualifying on pole position. The Dutch driver reduced reigning champion Lewis Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ title race to three points after the Briton claimed the final podium position ahead of William’s George Russell.
Verstappen will carry the stupendous form he produced from last weekend’s race into his home Grand Prix at Circuit Zandvoort. It’s been 36 years since the 4.29km long track hosted an F1 race and the home crowd aka Orange Army could give the Red Bull driver the edge this weekend with a mountain of support.
What to Expect in Holland
The track has undergone a few changes since the last time it hosted the world’s premier motorsport race, with F1.com reporting that banking has been added in certain corners Hugenholtz and the final corner Luyendyk – “to help create a venue that can handle the current generation of cars and hopefully open up opportunities for close racing.”
The track’s short and twisty nature should translate into a dominant Red Bull display, however, that was expected at the Hungarian GP and it never materialised as Mercedes landed pole position. However, the brilliant performance from the Honda engine saw Red Bull’s outright pace in the race blow Mercedes out of the water. Therefore Verstappen starts as favourite to win in front of his home crowd and regain the championship lead.
Mercifully, the weather forecast for Sunday only shows a 36% chance of rain and therefore Massey and co should be spared further embarrassment this weekend. Warmer weather compared to Belgium is also on the cards, it will be twenty degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday in Zandvoort, and despite the rain 23 degrees Celsius is expected for Sunday.
It’s set up for a Red Bull / Mercedes showdown this weekend, as it’s been all season long. Verstappen has a partisan crowd behind him, and there’s no doubt Hamilton will feel unwelcome. The seven world champion however seems to find a different gear when the odds are stacked against him and it’ll take a helluva performance to edge Verstappen off the top step.