Zandvoort’s strangest turn and its atypical racing line explained

Racing driver and instructor Scott Mansell explains why such drastically different lines were adopted by drivers at the Dutch GP

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

Image via Red Bull Content Pool

Last weekend, Formula 1 found itself at the Zandvoort circuit in the Netherlands for the first time since 1985. It offered a unique challenge to the drivers due to its sloping sections, in particular turn 3, also known as Hugenholtz.

Here we first saw drivers taking drastically different lines while finding the optimal path. This is because Hugenholtz is no ordinary bank shift – he uses the Fibonacci sequence to gradually increase the angle of the tarmac. Inside the turn it’s only 4.5 degrees, but outside it’s 19. So the corner is more of a bowl than a bank.

That’s it, explains Scott Mansell in his latest Driver61 video, which leads to the different approaches. If the turn wasn’t a bowl, drivers would turn and peak inside sooner or later depending on their preference, giving themselves a fairly straight line at the exit. Indeed, we saw some riders approaching the corner like this this weekend, but it was not the fastest route.

Counterintuitively, the optimal line is to stay wide around the whole. We’ll let Mansell go into the details, but to sum it up, it’s mainly due to the increased vertical loads providing more grip and therefore more speed. And since the track is steeper at the top, this effect is greater if you stick to the outside line.

There is also an added bonus to this method. Turn 3 is still strongly cambered inward as it exits, but if the car takes a wide line in the turn, it ends up on a flatter piece of track with the weight more evenly distributed between the axles just as the driver needs to regain power.

At the time of the race, the consensus was that the wider, taller line was the best, which allowed some to stay lower and try to overtake. In the end, the Dutch Grand Prix wasn’t as exciting as some of the thrillers we’ve had this year, but Turn 3 and Zandvoort’s other whims certainly spiced things up.

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