Zandvoort's 'element of surprise' will reward brave drivers

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Circuit constructor Jarno Zaffelli says that the remodelled Zandvoort track layout will reward the bravest drivers, thanks to totally new features that teams won't be able to reproduce in their simulators in time.

"Teams have the raw data, but they do not have the entire circuit. We will keep that data for ourselves for a while," said Zaffelli who runs circuit design company Dromo.

"We do that because we do not want them to have all the time to simulate. That way there is an element of surprise in it," he told Dutch publication Formule 1.

Zandvoort previously hosted 34 Dutch Grand Prix races between 1948 and 1985. Jim Clark took victory at the venue on four occasions, while the last winner was Ferrari's Niki Lauda.

After extensive renovations and upgrades, the circuit returns to the F1 calendar this year after an absence of 35 years, thanks in large part to the soaring popularity of Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

But today's drivers face a very different circuit from the one driven by the likes of Clark and Lauda, with a remodelled steep curve named after original track designer John Hugenholtz and a new banked final corner titled in honour of Arie Luyendyk.

"We are changing a historical place in a number of parts and coming up with a turn, something that we have not seen for decades in Formula 1," Zaffelli told De Telegraaf. "This is the project with the highest risk. For us, and also for the Formula 1 leadership and all those involved.

"According to our simulations, the drivers can go full speed through turn 2," he said. "After that, it becomes very interesting to see which line they're going to take in the Hugenholtz bend. The slope in that bowl bend exceeds the maximum of 18 degrees.

"This is really going to be a circuit for very brave drivers!"

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Zaffelli explained that the dramatic changes had been made in response to driver concerns the old track made overtaking problematic for modern F1 cars.

"[The drivers] are curious how they should tackle those bends and where they can catch up," he acknowledged. "Many people will be skeptical. 'Zandvoort is that circuit where you can't overtake', you hear. But that's why we have been called in, to change that."

Dromo previously renovated other world-famous circuits such as Silverstone and Imola, but Zaffelli admitted that Zandvoort had been a unique challenge for the company.

"Zandvoort is the most formidable that we have done so far. This is the circuit that has the most feeling, the most life.

"This is the first time for us that we have been working on a circuit built on sand," he continued. "Zandvoort is unique. The dunes, the exit lanes, the wind and now also the two bends. The only thing I can compare to a little is Suzuka, in Japan.

"That is my personal favourite, a circuit that has everything and is also very popular with drivers. It is no coincidence that both Zandvoort and Suzuka were designed by Hans Hugenholtz."

Despite the difficulties of the project, Zaffelli is confident that everything is still on schedule. "The facility should be open again at the end of February," he confirmed.

"The curb stones are currently being installed, the basis of the circuit is already there. The only thing that is missing is the black stuff. We expect to start the asphalting at the end of this month.

"Everyone is very enthusiastic about Zandvoort and the expectations are enormous," he added. "Every day, curious people fly drones over the circuit.

"The skepticism of many is mainly about accessibility. I'm not dealing with that, but I see people putting a lot of effort into it. I am convinced that everyone will be enthusiastic about the circuit."

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