After three weeks of summer break, Formula 1 is back. The first round post-summer break will not be Spa-Francorchamps for the first time since 1987. The Zandvoort circuit, which returned to the calendar two years ago, has very different characteristics to Belgium’s Spa circuit.
Behind the unstoppable RB19-Verstappen duo, McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin will once again fight to be second-fastest in Zandvoort.
McLaren should do well on a track that requires a high level of aerodynamic load and doesn’t punish low efficiency. Mercedes could also do well in Zandvoort, given the characteristics of the Dutch circuit. Meanwhile, Ferrari is preparing to play in defence – given the lack of downforce on the SF-23.
Aston Martin lost its early momentum this year, but it will be interesting to see the level of the AMR23 on a circuit that (in theory) suits the Silverstone car quite well.
Dutch GP: McLaren for third podium in four races, Mercedes seeks answers after Spa
The Zandvoort circuit is made up of a total of 14 official corners. Four are taken at low speed, three at medium speed and the same number at high speed, concentrated in the middle sector. This is where it will be crucial to withstand high levels of load for an extended period – due to the large radius of many curves on the track.
This feature has often helped Mercedes with this new generation of cars, while Ferrari has struggled much more in these situations. The characteristics of the track require a good front, but the importance of a stable rear in the various traction areas should not be overlooked.
It will be possible to activate the DRS on the two longest straights, the main one and at the end of the second sector. We saw in Hungary how the advantage of the RB19 in this area is lost when the top speeds are not very high.
McLaren suffers more than most with the potency of its DRS, whilst Aston Martin seems to have resolved this early weakness.
The AMR23 could perform well in lower-speed corners, but after the recent updates, it fails to maintain good speed in wider corners and higher minimum speeds.
The surprise of the weekend could once again be Alfa Romeo: the good performance in Hungary, a circuit which in many respects is similar to Zandvoort, gives good signs.
Hinwil’s engineers added downforce with the Silverstone update, improving the C43 in all types of cornering, especially at medium speed, while drag on the straights is still too much to try and get close to the group in front to make sure to fight for the points zone every weekend.
The nature of the track could also help Alpha Tauri get closer to the points zone, but a lot will depend on the ability to solve the problems encountered so far on the flying lap and on the sometimes uneven performance of Tsunoda and Riccardo’s AT04.
Pirelli has selected the range of harder compounds to bring to the Dutch GP: the C1, C2 and C3.
However, the weather forecast could change the teams’ plans: at the moment, there is a risk of rain on all three days of the weekend. The probability is especially on Saturday (over 90%) and also on Sunday.
This means temperatures will not be very high, with maximum temperatures of around 20° during the weekend.
Dutch GP updates: Aston Martin brings a new fund, McLaren too with new parts
In the last few races, Aston Martin has lost track compared to McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari. This weekend, the Silverstone team plans to introduce a new floor, entirely new in the pavement area.
Dan Fallows revealed that “we believe we have a good understanding of the car’s weaknesses and are taking steps to address them.”
The AMR23 is several tenths away from reaching the level of performance that the first pursuers of Red Bull are showing; the different medium and high-speed corners at Zandvoort shouldn’t favour the greenery of the post-Canada.
McLaren will also bring innovations, including a new rear wing and new parts in the floor area. These changes will finish off the large update package that began in Austria, with Norris and Piastri regularly competing for podiums since then.
In Austria, the MCL60 was third-fastest car. At Silverstone and Hungary, it was second-best, while in Belgium, an incorrect set-up and several problems compromised the weekend.
In Holland, the Woking team should still be fighting for the podium. Vasseur confirmed in the latest press conference that Ferrari will have no updates at Zandvoort or Monza.
A new package will debut on the SF23 later in the season as scheduled. The novelty at Ferrari is Cardile’s presence at the press conference, a signal of openness desired by Vasseur and shared in Maranello.
Other teams will also start bringing the latest stages of updates for the 2023 cars, before moving completely focus on 2024 and trying to close the gap to Red Bull.
At Milton Keynes, they continue to affirm that their wind tunnel penalty will have a visible effect on the development of next year’s car, while the rest of the grid is sceptical.
In the coming weeks, the official announcement from the FIA regarding the teams that have broken the expenditure ceiling in 2022 is also expected.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang