Scuderia Ferrari’s Dutch Grand Prix weekend has got off to a positive start. The Zandvoort track appears well suited to the characteristics of the SF21, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz topping the timesheet at the end of the day, the Monegasque being the only driver to get under the 1’11” barrier. On a track where qualifying will be more important than usual, today’s result is a reasonable starting point to work from, even if obviously there are many variables to consider, such as the various fuel levels being run and when the best times were set.
FP1. The first practice session was stopped for a long time to recover a car parked on the track. Despite the time lost, Charles and Carlos were able to get to grips with the Zandvoort track surface, even though it was still very dirty, running first on the Hard Pirellis and then the Softs towards the end, when running resumed. On this compound, Sainz, who did 19 laps, set the third fastest time of 1’11”601, 22 thousandths faster than his team-mate who did 18 laps and was fourth quickest.
FP2. Once again, the second hour of practice was also interrupted a few times because of technical problems or mistakes, which come at a high price at Zandvoort because of its gravel run-off areas. The Scuderia Ferrari drivers began the session on Medium compound tyres to round off the evaluation of all three compounds on offer, before switching to the Softs for a qualifying simulation during which they set the quickest times. Charles was fastest in 1’10”902, while Carlos was right behind with a 1’11”056. Both men then switched to race configuration, Charles doing 29 laps and Carlos 28.
This is the first Dutch Grand Prix in 36 years and the first impressions are very encouraging. The old-style track is thrilling and spectacular and the Dutch fans, who already packed out the grandstands as from this morning, are in a festive and boisterous mood. It shows how eagerly anticipated was this round, without a doubt the biggest sports event of the year in this country. It’s a nice foretaste of what Formula 1 will find in Monza next week.
‘I think there is still quite a bit of potential for us to improve. It is looking good for now, but we shouldn’t get carried away because it’s just Friday and I feel our competitors have a bit of performance still to reveal. I really enjoyed driving on the new Zandvoort. The banking feels very special on the first timed lap and it’s just overall a fun track to drive on. Then for the race, I don’t think there will be much overtaking so it will be important to secure a good grid position tomorrow. Our race pace was not as good as the single lap performance so we will be focusing on that.’
‘It’s an impressive and different track compared to what we are used to. It was fun to try different lines in FP1 around the banking corners and to push a bit more in FP2. I enjoyed myself out there today and the atmosphere with the fans close to the track is great! In terms of performance, we felt confident straight away with the car balance and with the car performance. We managed to do some decent running on soft tyres, whereas other competitive cars were caught out by the flags, so that’s maybe why we look so good on the timesheet. For sure we have room to improve, but still the car felt good and it was a positive Friday for us.’