Uralkali Haas F1 Team is heading to the seaside, with Circuit Zandvoort set to end a 36-year hiatus for Formula 1's Dutch Grand Prix.
Circuit Zandvoort can trace its history back to the late 1930s, when the coastal sand dunes to the north of the municipality were chosen for a race track, though its construction was delayed until the mid-1940s owing to the Second World War. The flowing and undulating circuit became a mainstay of Formula 1's calendar but it dropped from the schedule after 1985, and was shortened, allowing for a housing development nearby, with track activity significantly reduced.
But in recent years the circuit's popularity has risen once more, and allied with the emergence of Max Verstappen, it has returned to Formula 1 circles. In 2019 it was confirmed that the Dutch Grand Prix would return to the championship in May 2020. The old-school 4.259km Circuit Zandvoort underwent a full reprofiling, including an overhaul of its facilities, with significant 18-degree banking added to the widened Arie Luyendijk Bocht that leads drivers onto the pit straight.
The pandemic postponed the event's return by 16 months but after the longest time between successive national grands prix in history - 36 years - Formula 1 is ready to return to Circuit Zandvoort, with Uralkali Haas F1 Team eager to put the VF-21 through its paces.
Circuit Zandvoort may not have featured on Formula 1's schedule since 1985 but Uralkali Haas F1 Team youngsters Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher both sampled the circuit, prior to its modifications, in Formula 3. Mazepin secured a top 10 finish while Schumacher picked up a trophy en-route to the 2018 crown.
Last weekend Formula 1 released its latest update concerning the remainder of the 2021 schedule. Your thoughts please on the planned path to the season-finale in Abu Dhabi on December 12 and the input on the team side to ensure a workable schedule taking into consideration things like personnel and logistics.
Guenther Steiner: "I think going from 23 to 22 events is still a big achievement under the conditions of this pandemic because it's far from over and nobody expected this to drag on so long. I think there is a good plan in place now for the season with the events in place. Changing the schedule around a bit, for us, there is still time to do. Obviously, it's more short-term work but we have got used to that over the last year, so no issue there and for the team having one event less, they will not complain."
The Dutch Grand Prix is a welcome addition to the Formula 1 schedule. Are you pleased to see a return to more historic circuits, with an F1 heritage, alongside Formula 1's push towards new venues such as Jeddah and Miami etc.
GS: "I think going to Zandvoort is a cool place to go to. I always say swapping the events around a little bit also makes it interesting. Now, for a few years we go back to Zandvoort and maybe one of the other historic events comes back because they've made updates to the track. Bringing new events such as Jeddah is also fantastic because you see something new - you get to experience new countries and some new race tracks."
We've witnessed a sea of orange at tracks such as the Red Bull Ring and Spa-Francorchamps from all of Max Verstappen's fans. Now there's a Dutch Grand Prix - just what kind of atmosphere do you expect at Zandvoort thanks to the 'Max Factor', and how great is it to see such passion for drivers in the sport?
GS: "I think that's all that a racing driver can wish for - to have a fan base like Max has got, it's fantastic. Now a race has been brought to his home country it's very nice, even if the fans travel to Austria and Spa en masse! I think even without the Dutch Grand Prix he has a huge following but there will be a sea of orange in Zandvoort."
From what you know of Circuit Zandvoort and the current generation of Formula 1 cars - what do you think we can expect to see in terms of on-track action when the Dutch Grand Prix gets underway?
GS: "I haven't been to Zandvoort in a while. I know they've changed the big turns, they've put banking on it. It's a pretty short circuit. Let's see - I have no expectations but I'm sure it will be fine. They've done a lot of work - one year more than they expected due to the pandemic - so I'm sure it will be a good event."
This is the second race in the second triple-header of the season. During a season with a record number of races planned, and in your rookie year, what are the benefits of a triple-header in your opinion?
Nikita Mazepin: "The benefits are obviously driving and getting the experience. It can get very repetitive and frustrating at times but when you're going to circuits like Spa, Zandvoort and Monza which are all different - some of which I know very well and some I don't - there's loads of experience that you can gain. I've never driven a Formula 1 car around those circuits so there's great opportunities to improve as a driver."
This will be the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years but you've previously raced at Zandvoort during the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2016 and 2017 - how will the current specification of Formula 1 cars tackle the Zandvoort's iconic banked corners?
NM: "I enjoy driving this crazy circuit because it's unlike any other on the calendar. It's very special, impossible to overtake - almost - and I'm looking forward to getting out there because they've changed the circuit and added a lot of camber in some places. I'm interested in how that's going to feel in a very fast Formula 1 car."
It's a race with a lot of anticipation and excitement for the paddock and fans alike. Part of that excitement will arguably be due to the fact Max Verstappen will be racing in front of his fans, on home soil, for the first time. Your home race in Sochi is just a few weeks away - what added expectation or motivation does that give to a driver?
NM: "A home race is very special. Not every Formula 1 driver has a home race so being one of them makes me feel very lucky. When you race in front of the people who support you it gives you a lot more motivation to power through difficult sessions, but at the same time it adds pressure to you wanting to be doing the best job you can, and sometimes things don't go your way during a race weekend."
This is the second race in the second triple-header of the season. You said during the first triple-header that it was beneficial to spend such time with the team, not only to work together on track but to spend time together off it as well. What are the benefits of a triple-header in your opinion?
Mick Schumacher: "I think the benefits of a triple-header is as I said, getting to spend time with the team both on and off the track, but also in very little time you have to adapt to situations that are different. Things that may have been difficult for us last week won't necessarily be difficult for us this week. We kind of always have to readapt to what's ahead and start from a clean sheet, and that trains us for the future when we learn to adapt to situations quicker. For example, if we start off in a weekend having a difficult car, in little time - maybe by FP2 or FP3 - we will have a car that is where we want it to be."
This will be the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years but you've previously raced at Zandvoort in junior categories, most notably achieving a third-place finish during the 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Championship. How will the current specification of Formula 1 cars tackle the Zandvoort's iconic banked corners?
MS: "To be honest, I have no idea how it's going to be! You can drive on the simulator, you can do a whole lot of preparation but the truth is nothing will resemble the truth of how it's going to be out there in a real car. It's going to be very important this weekend to approach things with an open mind to see how the car will behave in places. I do know the track from Formula 3. The track has changed in different places - most notably the banked corner in the final part of the track which should allow us to open the DRS sooner and then we have Turn 3 that is also very banked now. We'll definitely have to see and try out a few things to be able to set-up the car as we want it to be."
It's a race with a lot of anticipation and excitement for the paddock and fans alike. Part of that excitement will arguably be due to the fact Max Verstappen will be racing in front of his fans, on home soil, for the first time. Currently there isn't a race in Germany on the calendar - what added expectation or motivation does that give to a driver and how much would you like to race on home soil in a Formula 1 car for the first time?
MS: "I know how it feels to drive on home soil and personally I'd love to drive in Germany in front of my home crowd. I think it does gives you that little bit of extra push but also extra pressure so it's how you convert that pressure into motivation and drive. It's going to be nice for Max - you're going to see lots of orange t-shirts."