Last weekend, Formula 1 found itself back at Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands for the first time since 1985. It provided a unique challenge to the drivers due to its banked sections, particularly Turn 3, also known as Hugenholtz.
Here, we initially saw drivers taking dramatically different lines while figuring out the optimal way round. This is because Hugenholtz is no ordinary banked turn - it uses the Fibonacci Sequence to progressively increase the angle of the tarmac. On the inside of the turn, it’s just 4.5 degrees, but on the outside, it’s 19. So, the corner is more of a bowl than a bank.
It’s this, explains Scott Mansell in his latest Driver61 video, that leads to the differing approaches. If the corner wasn’t a bowl, drivers would turn in and apex on the inside either early or late depending on their preference, giving themselves a fairly straight line on the exit. Indeed, we did see some drivers tackle the corner like this over the weekend, but it wasn’t the fastest way around.
Counter-intuitively, the optimal line involves sticking wide around the whole thing. We’ll let Mansell get into the minutiae, but to sum up, it’s mostly down to increased vertical loads providing more grip thus more speed. And since the track is more heavily angled at the top, this effect is greater if you stick to the outside line.
There’s an added bonus to this method, too. Turn 3 is still heavily cambered to the inside on its exit, but if the car is taking a wide line through the bend, it ends up on a flatter piece of track with the weight more evenly spread between the axles just when the driver needs to get back on the power.
By the time of the race, the consensus was that the wider, higher line was the best one, which opened up the opportunity for some to stay lower and try for an overtake. In the end, the Dutch Grand Prix wasn’t quite as exciting as some of the thrillers we’ve had this year, but Turn 3 and Zandvoort’s other quirks certainly spiced things up.