The skies were grey but not a single drop of rain fell on the drivers and teams at the Zandvoort circuit on the Thursday of the first Dutch Grand Prix since the last time it was held way back in 1985. The two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were the first to meet the media in the FIA press conference.
Discovering the new Zandvoort. Neither driver was even born in 1985 when Niki Lauda won the last F1 race held at this track alongside the North Sea shoreline, but Carlos and Charles have both previously raced at this short and spectacular track. “I raced here a few times from 2010 to 2012, getting two wins and a podium,” recalled Sainz. “It’s a fun track, even if it’s been radically altered since then. The addition of two banked corners should add to the show and the enjoyment, which is why I can’t wait to jump in the car tomorrow and discover it.” “My only experience here goes back to 2015,” said Charles, referring to a round of the European Formula 3 championship held here in the Netherlands. “What I recall from that experience is a fast track, narrow, which is unforgiving if you make a mistake with the barriers always being very close. To sum it up, it’s a cocktail and as someone who likes street circuits a lot, I definitely appreciate it.”
Performance. “It’s very difficult to talk about performance when I haven’t even done a lap of the track on foot,” continued Leclerc. “But I think the track characteristics should suit our car well. I'm expecting an interesting weekend, but let’s wait and see how it goes once we’re on track. The parabolic corners? Especially at turn 3, there could be more than one line and that could open up some unexpected scenarios.”
Birthday. Carlos arrived in the Netherlands late Wednesday morning having come via Maranello. “I was told I had to come to the factory to change the car I was using. In fact it was a surprise that worked perfectly. There were lots of the guys who work in the factory singing “Happy Birthday” and it was really emotional. Alongside me were Mattia and Charles and I understood once again how special it is to be a Ferrari driver.” Today, at lunchtime, the Spaniard celebrated again, this time with those in the team who had made the trip directly from Spa-Francorchamps to Zandvoort. On this occasion he was presented with a cake in the shape of a chilli, an image Carlos has adopted as his own, accompanied once again by much applause and good wishes.
Programme. Tomorrow, the first free practice session starts at 11.30 local time, followed at 15.00 by the second session. The final hour of free practice takes place on Saturday at 12, in preparation for qualifying at 15, while the 31st Dutch Grand Prix to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship starts on Sunday at the same time.