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Max-Verstappen-zandvoort

Lucky the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort for now

Max-Verstappen-zandvoort

After 36 years, Formula 1 returns to the Netherlands for the Dutch Grand Prix after 36 years, thrilling Max Verstappen fans but with fierce opposition outside the racing community which clouds prospects for the years to come.

With the country hoping for a victory for Red Bull’s local hero, Max-mania will reach fever pitch in the small beach resort west of Amsterdam as a sell-out crowd of around 70,000 orange-clad fans per day will roar Verstappen on as he aims to become the first Dutchman to win a home grand prix.

“We could have sold over a million tickets”, circuit director Robert van Overdijk said on the eve of the event, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The sensational rise of Max Verstappen, the youngest grand prix winner and the first Dutch contender for the championship, has already painted the stands at races in Belgium and Austria orange, and his welcome promises to be even warmer on home soil.

However, many Dutch are not so thrilled by the return of racing’s top class, which they say endangers Zandvoort’s precious dune reserve and runs counter to efforts to fight climate change.

Over the past two years, environmentalists and animal rights groups have launched a range of lawsuits in a bid to block the seaside race at Zandvoort. All cases so far were lost, but this has not deterred the activists, who are still seeking ways to block future races.

The last effort was dismissed by a court this week, but only on procedural grounds as the activists’ claim that organisers have underestimated the air pollution caused by the race is already being dealt with by a higher court.

Mobilization for the Environment (MOB) environmentalist leader Johan Vollenbroek said: “The court decision only related to the 2021 race and said nothing about the merits of our case. Everything is still possible for the coming years.”

But Van Overdijk said he did not fear the legal battles down the road for the circuit, as he remains convinced that any environmental damage caused by F1 could always be compensated by limiting other events throughout the year.

He said: “This will not endanger the grand prix. We are in it for the long run. We expect this to be the first of at least 10 or 15 editions of the Dutch Grand Prix.” (Reporting by Bart Meijer)