First of thousands of fans arrive in Zandvoort for Grand Prix
The time has finally come: after 36 years, today the track in Zandvoort will welcome tens of thousands of people for the first day of the Dutch Grand Prix.
F1 fans arrive at Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort
Formula 1 fans have had to wait a while for this day. The revival of the Zandvoort GP was announced in 2019, with the race set to return in May 2020. Of course, things did not go to plan, as the outbreak of coronavirus brought the event to a complete standstill. Now, a year and a half later, 70.000 people will take to the stands on day one of three days of racing.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) have stepped up their train schedules to ensure enough services are running to courier people back and forth from the seaside town, with trains running to and from Zandvoort every five minutes. With up to 10.000 fans arriving in Zandvoort every hour, the weekend is set to be a busy one. The local municipality has also installed an additional 42.000 bike racks in order to cater for the extra traffic.
Zandvoort GP vs delays, environmentalists and coronavirus restrictions
The Grand Prix marks one of the country’s largest events since last spring, and organisers have faced a number of challenges to ensure it can go ahead. 30.000 tickets had to be cancelled in order for the event to adhere to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.
A number of protests against the event have also taken place. Environmentalists took issue with the pollution the race would generate and the effect of the Grand Prix on local wildlife. From day one, Zandvoort faced lawsuits and protests against, among other things, the race’s nitrogen emissions and the danger the event presented to the local sand lizard and natterjack toad, as well as birds and seals.
In addition to all of this, the GP also faced criticism after it was given the go-ahead by the Dutch government in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Since other events and festivals were forced to cancel, organisers complained it was unfair the Grand Prix would be able to take place.
Verstappen vs Hamilton: Is Max on his way to a victory on home soil?
The first practice sessions kick off at 11.30am. Of course, the name on everybody’s lips this weekend is Max Verstappen, whose rivalry against British driver Lewis Hamilton continues. Last week’s rainy and underwhelming race in Spa, Belgium, closed the gap between the two racers, and now Verstappen doesn’t just have his eyes on a victory on home soil, but is also looking to take the 2021 Drivers Championship from reigning champion Hamilton.
The race has taken over Zandvoort, with orange balloons and Formula 1 flags visible on every street corner. Fans dressed in orange or as their favourite racer have flooded the town. "I took the first train from Amsterdam," one fan dressed as Verstappen told NOS. “I've been looking forward to this all year." King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will also be present this weekend, and will meet Verstappen before the big race on Sunday.
This may be the first race in Zandvoort in over 35 years, but it won’t be the last. While the event is sure to continue to face complaints from wildlife organisations and local residents, organisers are planning at least another two years of the Zandvoort Grand Prix.