Why Zandvoort could be a pain in the neck for F1 drivers

Formula 1 drivers are all super fit, and much of their training focusses on their neck muscles, the aspect that always proved tough for rookies when they first arrive at the top level.

However, even the best prepared face a new challenge at Zandvoort, thanks to the non-stop nature of the circuit, and its many high-speed corners.

Drivers have sampled the layout in simulators, but they won’t really know about the forces they’re facing this weekend until they’ve drive on the real track.

And while teams have run all the numbers, prior to running the engineers won’t know exactly how much grip the track surface has, how it interacts with Pirelli’s three compounds, and how the overall grip level changes as rubber goes down. Certainly, early on Friday it is expected to be slippery – but it will improve, and speeds will rise.

“The bit that's really hard to estimate is exactly what the grip level of the track is going to be,” says Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough. “There's sand on the track and so on. You saw the safety car running around on Thursday, there were plumes of sand, the car was drifting everywhere.

“They've been out with a machine trying to clean the track, but the machines that they were using weren't the ones with the really good washing, they were just sort of trying to scrub it off! I think the tracks will be quite low grip to start off with, but by the time we get to qualifying there have been a lot of laps on there.”

Many circuits have standout corners where drivers experience high g-forces, but what makes Zandvoort different is the number of peaks, and how soon they come one after another, providing little respite.

“It's more about how many times we hit 5-5.5g than just hitting 5g,” says Carlos Sainz.

“If you hit it once in a circuit, it's fine. Hitting it four or five times like we're about to hit this weekend, it's going to be potentially tiring for the neck, for the whole body, different to what we are normally used to. And an exciting challenge.

“It looks like the two high-speed corners in Sector 2 and the last two corners are the highest g-force. Turn 1 should also be high g-force, Turn 2 should be high, and Turn 3 with the banking. So we're going to have a lot of corners on high g. And with new tarmac it should be high grip also.”

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21 track walk with team members

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR21 track walk with team members

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

“I think it's gonna be tough physically, because you don't really have a lot of straight lines,” says Pierre Gasly. “Like from Turn 3 to Turn 7 is basically not straight, you're always curving, cornering. The main straight is pretty short, and there’s a lot of banking, a lot of Gs. You're never really straight. So we expect it to be quite physical.”

One intriguing aspect of Zandvoort is the extra challenge provided by the vertical loadings that drivers will experience in several places.

“I think the speeds coupled with the camber puts a different kind of force on your body in some of these corners,” says Lando Norris. “It's not just like left or right, it's also a bit of a compression. So that also adds to it.

“There's not a lot of time for breaks, it's constant cornering through the majority of the track, with a couple of straights – the start/finish, and maybe the one down into the chicane.

“Turn 7 is extremely fast, and it's also slightly cambered on the way in. I've got no idea if it's gonna be as high as 6g, but it will be around 5-5.5g, I'm guessing.

“It's similar to Mugello, the corners are very high speed, but also very long. So it's not just a spike – you spike, but you hold it for a good couple of seconds, or maybe not quite so much. It’s just a lot of very high speed corners, and especially when you add this compression and camber section into it, then it kind of doubles the effect.”

Norris says that unusually high vertical loading will be the real novelty for the drivers.

“It's not something you get much of in an F1 season. And it's something that is extremely difficult to train for, a compression of such a sort.

“It was the same for me in Daytona with the 24 Hours in 2018. The first few laps you do it’s very weird, because the load goes vertically through your body, and kind of pushes you down, more than just left or right. And also your eyes have to adjust to this playing field... It just takes a few laps for your mind to kind of re-adjust. But after a few laps it kind of becomes normal.”

Track overview

Track overview

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The highest peak loadings will be seen in qualifying, and drivers won’t replicate those lap times and forces in the race. However, 72 laps on Sunday will be quite a distance, especially if there are no safety car periods to provide a break.

“Obviously you won't ever pull as much as then you do in qualifying with the tyres and fuel load and things like that.” says Norris. “But like I said, there's not a lot of time to relax and to breathe on the straights.

“You are constantly cornering. A lot of them are quite medium and high speed corners. It's a short lap, and that just makes the amount of repetitions you do very high. And that always adds up to the fatigue.”

As noted all, the drivers are very fit, and thus they will probably take this weekend’s challenge in their stride.

“What's happening in the season is also because you drive a lot that you kind of maintain fitness,” says Gasly. “But at the start of the year, usually Barcelona testing is quite brutal, especially after a couple of months out of the car.”

It’s thus unlikely that anyone’s actual performance on track will be impacted. Nevertheless, some drivers might be feeling it a bit by Sunday evening...

Read Also:


Related video

Pirelli hasn't altered F1 tyres for Zandvoort banking

Previous article

Pirelli hasn't altered F1 tyres for Zandvoort banking

Next article

Norris' newest engine given all-clear after Spa F1 crash

Norris' newest engine given all-clear after Spa F1 crash
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Prime

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Tim Wright.

Formula 1
Oct 18, 2021
Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Prime

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? Stuart Codling talks to the man in charge.

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021