Return to the Netherlands hides problems in Europe

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Dgolden golden herrings, crossed, on a blue background. The coat of arms of Zandvoort refers to long gone times, as the residents have fed on what they pulled with their nets from the stormy North Sea. Even the news of Tuesday did not come out without reference to the past, in which the danger was omnipresent. The formula 1 returns to the beach of the Dutch province of North Holland, next year already. Niki Lauda was in 1985 the last winner of a Formula 1 race at Zandvoort. The track in the dunes has the reputation of being a mini-Nordschleife, narrow and dangerous, and in fact, conversions are needed before the first European race of the coming season is expected to take place there in early May.

But the agreement of the operators of the track, among them Prince Bernhard of Orange, with Formula 1 rights holder Liberty Media exemplifies its business model. Full throttle Prince Max Verstappen, in which many see a coming world champion, in which only the question arises, how many titles he will win, has triggered an immense boom in his homeland. Michael Schumacher in Germany and Fernando Alonso in Spain were comparable. Zandvoort is expected to have up to 300,000 visitors on the race weekend, and even if the all-too-strong wish is father of the numbers: The seaside resort will be overrun like Hockenheim at the Schumacher appearance 25 years ago.

Standard rent: 20,000,000 euros

The contract, which has now been signed, refers to three years, with the option to extend another two. Liberty Media calls for the standard rent, about twenty million euros. In the Netherlands, the demand is so high that private sponsors raise the money and the cost of the renovation is about the same. The municipality Zandvoort wants to invest only in the improvement of the access roads. Verstappen is young. Given his health, he can still drive for years in Formula One. The high quota is secured for the time being.

Elsewhere in Europe, business is paying off less and less. At Hockenheim, Barcelona and Silverstone there is still no agreement for 2020. At least one of the tracks will not host Formula One next year. Especially the venues of the Alonso and Schumacher Festivals of yore have bad cards in poker with Liberty. It was full in Hockenheim 2018 with a good 70,000 spectators as long not more. The World Cup was exciting. This year, the pre-sale is sluggish. One reason: Mercedes, title sponsor of the German Grand Prix, won every race in 2019 with a double victory.

Chase Carey, CEO of Formula One, describes the return to Zandvoort as a commitment to the traditional locations. In fact, like Bernie Ecclestone, he plays the European routes against each other. Elsewhere, much more is being put on the table for a Formula One visit. Next year, the Politburo in the one-party state of Vietnam will be delighted to speak, and there is talk of an offer from Saudi Arabia, three times the value of what Zandvoort now pays. Whether the series responds depends on the willingness to swallow guaranteed negative headlines – catchphrase: the cruel murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It is to be feared that the catchword metaphor also works in the darkest sense.

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