Circuit Zandvoort in the northwest of the Netherlands deserves many comparisons to a roller coaster because of the undulating, flowing path the 4.259 kilometer circuit carves through sand dunes. Drivers have little time to rest on the main straight, which is flanked by long-radius corners, and the steep bank of Turn 3 in particular challenges racing intelligence and driver fitness like few other turns of the calendar.

By Michael McClure

Several changes were made at Zandvoort ahead of its return to the calendar last season, including at Turn 3. The mid-speed left-hander in Sector 1 was previously flat, but has been converted to a 19-degree banked corner. This creates a bowl-like shape through which drivers take non-traditional lines, typically going high into the turn to carry more speed.

F1 Power Series spoke to several FIA Formula 3 Championship drivers over the weekend about how they navigated the corner and the challenges it presents.

A bumpy ride

Prema’s Jak Crawford mentioned that the bumps in Turn 3 posed a challenge for drivers, as evidenced by replays of cars bouncing off the pavement as the bank flattened out.

“It’s definitely one of the most interesting corners on the calendar, the one where you don’t really take the edge. You go over the high line. It’s a weird corner. You just have to really let off the brake and go. Use the incline to your advantage. It can be tricky on the exit with a few bumps, but otherwise it’s a pretty cool turn.

It’s definitely one of the most interesting corners of the calendar, the one where you don’t really top

Jak Crawford on Zandvoort Turn 3

F1 Power Series also learned that track works had taken place at Zandvoort until last week to smooth out the bumps, some of which were still visible on the entrance to the corner.

Waste of time

Turn 3, or John Hugenholtzbocht, is crucial because of the stretch of race track that follows – Turns 4, 5 and 6 essentially comprise a high-speed straight on which the drivers drive almost flat out. This brings them to the long right-hander of Turn 7, which gets tighter as the turn progresses and descends.

The time loss in Turn 3 is crucial, as Feature Race poleman Zane Maloney and second-placed Victor Martins explained.

“It’s very difficult, obviously, with the banks,” Maloney said. “You can lose half a tenth to a tenth quite easily by not doing anything different, so it’s a very tough corner. I’m sure during the race some people’s arms might fall off.

“You can easily lose a tenth there by [qualifying]”, explained Martins. “On the line, I will say that it’s kind of the same for everyone. I mean, you see the car go there, everyone goes there, and you all do the same after. It’s the approach on how late you brake, how you push into the driveway and how much on the accelerator you are – maybe also the gears you use. In the end, that’s all we have. Every team has the experience of the last year, so we… know what to do, and then we just adapt it during the session.

Relentless roller coaster

A lap of Zandvoort can be difficult to achieve in practice and qualifying, but there is an additional difficulty in race conditions: driver fatigue. The 21-lap Sprint race earlier on Saturday had no stops, so the drivers had no time to rest their arms. Sunday’s Feature Race is set to last 26 laps for an even more physical challenge if it is run entirely under green flag.

ART Grand Prix’s Juan Manuel Correa, who returned to the F3 Sprint Race podium for the first time since his career-changing crash in 2019, said he was thinking about physics for the second half of the race, especially as his tires began to degrade.

There was quite a bit of deg, and that makes steering harder, especially when it’s rear deg

Juan-Manuel Correa

” It was hard. We were talking about it in the recovery room. First of all, it was a race without VSC or safety cars, which is not typical here in Zandvoort, and that makes things more difficult because you have to push the whole race.

“Secondly, there was quite a bit of deg, and that makes the steering wheel harder, especially when it comes to rear deg. So I would say from lap 10, I was thinking about it and I knew that all the everyone was in the same boat. It will make it interesting tomorrow for the Feature Race. [five] longer laps than today, so if there are no safety cars, that will definitely be a factor.

Caio Collet comes out of turn 3 of the Sprint race | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Sprint race winner Caio Collet said race management played a key role in having enough energy to last the 21 laps.

“I was trying to control the gap a little bit with Juan and choose which laps I was going to push a little more or a little less to save me and the tires a little bit,” he explained. “I think it worked pretty well. It’s a tough track, especially Sector 1 – it’s really, really tough, but we have to be ready for the Feature Race tomorrow.

Several tricky corners

Turn 3 is perhaps Zandvoort’s most memorable corner, but there are others that challenge drivers as well. The long radius of the aforementioned Turn 7 also provides arm training, as does Turn 14, which itself was implemented before the return of the Dutch Grand Prix in 2020. Although taken more slowly, the turns 1, 10 and 12 also have rounded profiles that require longer steering inputs from drivers.

Formula 1 uses DRS until turn 14, but F2 and F3 do not for safety reasons. Sprint Race third Zak O’Sullivan hinted at the existing physical difficulty of the final corner, a problem which would have been exacerbated by extra speed.

“The problem is less the neck and all the arms, to be honest. Turn 3 and also a bit of turns 7 and 14 are super tricky. Throughout the race I had a bit of a balance problem, and obviously that’s not helping the arms,” he said. “The Feature Race will be a bit difficult tomorrow.”

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd