Zandvoort seeks financial backing to meet F1 deadline

The Dutch Sports Council (NLsportraad) has said Circuit Zandvoort needs to secure significant financial support from the private sector by the end of the month if it is to succeed in returning the Formula One motor-racing championship to the Netherlands next year.

NLsportraad has provided an update on the situation after Zandvoort, which is located on the Dutch coast, signed a letter of intent for the 2020 season with Formula One Management (FOM) on December 13.

Following this signing, Zandvoort approached the Dutch government for financial support, but NLsportraad has said the state will only commit to assisting in terms of the likes of infrastructure and security, and will not subsidise a Dutch Grand Prix.

NLsportraad said in an open letter: “Circuit Zandvoort is (currently) trying its best to find large sponsor partners to complete their business case. The date of 31 March 2019 has been set as a hard deadline by FOM.

“Circuit Zandvoort explained that there are sponsor partners that are interested but their confidence in the business case of Zandvoort might have decreased because the central government chose to only facilitate the plans and not provide subsidy.

“Furthermore, the management of Circuit Zandvoort noticed that potential sponsors are becoming increasing wary because of messages in the media about the (alleged) competition between Circuit Zandvoort and Circuit Assen.

“The Formula One business case for the Zandvoort circuit is comprehensive because improvements do need to be made to the circuit. To date the circuit has not received much support from the surrounding cities and the Province of Noord-Holland.”

Zandvoort hosted 30 Formula One races from 1952 to 1985. Assen is regarded as a motorcycling hub and has been a long-time host of MotoGP and Superbike World Championship races. Regarding Assen’s reported interest in Formula One, NLsportraad said: “Circuit Assen explained that their business case was complete, partly thanks to a foreign investor who is prepared to vouch for the costs for the fee.

“The Assen business case is less extensive than the Zandvoort business case, because the current accommodation, organisation and infrastructure of the TT Assen can be used. In addition, the Assen circuit has support from the province of Drenthe and the city of Assen. Circuit Assen explained that it does not need sponsoring partners to complete their business case.”

However, the council added: “The NLsportraad recognises and appreciates the entrepreneurial spirit in Zandvoort as well as the solid heritage in Assen. However, these matters are not considered relevant from FOM’s position.

“Direct contact between the NLsportraad and the responsible manager of FOM made it clear that Circuit Zandvoort is the only candidate in the Netherlands suitable to organise a Formula One race in the Netherlands because of the history and the close proximity of big cities and airports.

“FOM stated that the only possibility of the Formula One race being awarded to the Netherlands is if the business case of Zandvoort is completed in time to the deadlines discussed.”

Formula One, and its owner Liberty Media, is keen to return the sport to the Netherlands to capitalise on the rising interest in Dutch star Max Verstappen. Without a home race, Dutch fans currently travels in their thousands to support the Red Bull Racing driver at nearby events such as Austria and Belgium.