The moment has came, and we are finally properly starting the Dutch GP weekend. You can feel the atmosphere up in the air - thousands of fans arrived here early morning at the track in Zandvoort to experience Formula 1 back in their country for the first time in 36 years, and let me tell you, it is an amazing experience to witness it here surrounded by the beautiful scenery. Fans are partying, music is blasting, and the weather is great (which does not happen here in the Netherlands often, trust me).
This weekend is basically unknown for everybody - many drivers on the gird have raced here in the past in other series such as F3, but not only do the teams have no data available, but also the track has been renovated, so this practice session will definitely be a learning experience for all of them. The only 2 things everyone seems to agree on is - overtaking will be very difficult here at Zandvoort, but the banking by turn 3 and before the main straight are immensely exciting. Let’s see now who will take the biggest lessons from this practice session ahead of us.
We’re starting with beautiful cloudless sky here by the Zandvoort am Zee, with air temperature of 18C and track temp of 21C. The F3 session prior to our FP1 has been red flagged twice, so let’s see if F1 can top that.
With the green light all of the drivers went out to test their grounds on the track. The first driver to set a lap time was Sainz, with 1:30.328s. On the outing Tsunoda already discovered the track is not very forgiving when it comes to mistakes, as he spun in Turn 10 but was able to continue. Esteban Ocon had his own adventure by Turn 11, but was also able to carry on. 6 minutes in the FP1 and many have already realised Zandvoort will not be an easy piece of cake. Sebastian Vettel reported an issue with his Aston Martin and returned to the pits.
10 minutes into the session all drivers beside Tsunoda have set a time. In that part, we’ve got Bottas at P1 with the time of 1:13.021s. Behind him Verstappen, Norris and Ricciardo, and it appears the McLarens are having a particularly good time here.
One of the issues at the track, that will definitely have a lot of influence on the Qualifying session tomorrow, is that it is heavily susceptible to traffic. It will be difficult for the teams to find the sweet spot to let their driver out for the lap, and qualifying here at Zandvoort is crucial as the track is very difficult to overtake at, a note taken from the drivers who had their go here before in the lower categories.
Around 40 minutes we’ve got a yellow flag at the track, caused by Sebastian Vettel, who had to stop his car and get out, borrow a fire extinguisher from the marshalls to put down the issue in his Aston Martin. It appears to be a possibly electrical issue with his power unit. The session was further red flagged in order to get his car out of the way, as he stopped in Sector 1 by the first corner just after the main straight. The good information for Vettel is that Zandvoort is not really a power oriented track, so if Aston is able to put an older engine in the car they should be good to go, as it won’t strain the power unit. The situation has been a little confusing, as there seemed to be a little of a debate over which extinguisher to use, in all honesty not the best look for Zandvoort to start the weekend with. By that time, it was Lando Norris who was topping the leaderboard, with the time of 1:12.679s. He was followed by the local hero Max Verstappen on P2, with the time of 1:12.756s and Valtteri Bottas at P3 with 1:12.779s. The rest that was in the top 10 were: Hamilton, Gasly, Alonso, Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Sainz.
25 minutes to go for the session and it has been still red flagged. Bizarre pictures occurred with the Aston Martin crew pulling to the car with one person in safety gear checking the car with a volt-meter in order to see if the car poses any electrical hazard to the people around. That is the reason why the car has been not yet removed from the track, as nobody is sure if the car is safe to even touch. After the inspection the marshalls began to remove the car from the track.
With 6 minutes left on the clock the red flag was removed and the we’re good to go - the drivers are back on the track. That is not a lot of time for the drivers - with how the current times are looking its about 4-5 laps of the circuit. After the session was restarted and the train followed on the track, it was Leclerc who climbed on the top of the leaderboard with 1:12.288s. He was soon replaced on the top by his teammate Sainz. It seems Fernando Alonso has been having lots of fun on the track - he was able to get P5 and extract as much as possible from his Alpine, and it is definitely not all he can do on this track.
With the end of FP1, it was Hamilton who topped the leaderboard with the time of 1:11.500s, followed by Verstappen with 1:11:597s and Sainz with 1:11 601s. The rest that completed the top 10 were: Leclerc, Bottas, Alonso, Ocon, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Gasly.
The full classification after FP1: