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On September 5, 2021, the world witnessed a Dutch Grand Prix for the first time since August 24, 1985. Max Verstappen won in a race that was equally exciting, mainly because of the tire tactics, and it was remarkable how stoically he crossed the finish line first. Everything fell into place, the free practice and qualifying turned out to be in Dutch favor, the international press was full of praise for the organization and the sun almost fell from the sky. It went so well that Verstappen's victory seemed to be a natural part of the perfect picture. Until I thought of the past, of the last Dutch Grand Prix of the last century.
Today, winning a Formula 1 Grand Prix is a major achievement. And after last year's setback, when brand new Corona prevented the passage of the Dutch Grand Prix of 2020, the organization once again straightened out. As mentioned, everything came together during a long September weekend. Yes, I had my reservations about the big vaccinated placed influx and thought of the organizers of smaller events, who always get no response from The Hague. But still: the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, that sounds great. And it was.
In the meantime, the accompanying Ziggo commentary was good for expanding my vocabulary. An anthology. Max manages his pace. Perez, he's pumped up now. Who's next. Bottas is taking the long way now. Bottas just goes for the fastest lap. Yes. He thinks: Ammehula! The Buzz coming from the stands is beautiful. And the most beautiful: Max is in his salsa. My son and I watched and listened, and found everything amusing. Including the popie jopie texts of the commentators. How different it was in 1985, the year that the term Popie Jopie was introduced by the Pisa van Spaan and Vermeegen. Reason: the Pope came to the Netherlands.
A few months after the highly honored visit from Vatican City, the last Dutch Grand Prix of the last century was held, Zandvoort languished in an increasingly commercial perspective. Yes, Ecclestone still thought Zandvoort was a fantastic track, but it just couldn't be anymore, especially at a time when the public still bought the ticket at the box office and you had to wait and see how many people did that. During the last Grand Prix of the Netherlands, Huub Rothengatter finished the race in the Osella FA1G, but he did not make the final classification. He finished 14 laps behind winner Lauda, Verstappen's predecessor in Zandvoort. But he did finish. That was often a bonus without points for a Dutch driver during those years.
The points often remained far out of the picture; a podium spot was all that, let alone a Grand Prix victory. And no Dutchman at home made it to the podium. Van Lennep was sixth in 1973, during the race with an inky black rim, like Godin de Beaufort in 1962. But I didn't grow up with that, I only saw those images later. I grew up a bit with Jan Lammers. He rivaled the legendary Ayrton Senna. But not in Formula 1. For the sympathetic driver from Zandvoort, that was a matter of wrong time, wrong place. Ecclestone wanted to bring him to his team, but just at that moment sponsor Theodorus Niemeyer withdrew his hands from the Formula 1 adventure. Changing of the guard in Groningen, end of story.
Certainly in hindsight, Lammers missed a great Formula 1 career. He made up for it, such as at Le Mans, where he was fastest in 1988 with the Jaguar XJR-9 (along with Dumfries and Wallace). And in 1990 with his team in the XJR-12 came second there. But he achieved the biggest victory of his career as sporting director of the Dutch GP 2021. In one fell swoop he - together with the other responsible persons - put Zandvoort back on the map.
But I especially grew up with Huub, I always found the stories about Rothengatter fascinating. The man wanted to play a role in motorsport so badly that he would do anything for it, and also brought in his sponsors himself. Or invited Philips to sponsor him through an advertisement in De Telegraaf. That's how Huub did it. He was a brawler, who was never in his Salsa and never his pace management, but always fought for his place. He defended his seats in the Spirits, Osella's and Zakspeeds and took the final classification of a Grand Prix six times out of almost thirty times. If Huub ended up in the standings, he also scored very well. He achieved a top ten ranking five times. I thought that achievement was immense. Huub was my Formula 1 hero, because he sometimes upheld the Dutch honor in the exclusive class. And he arranged a lot himself. And simply because his races have stayed with me the most from my childhood.
That's what I thought when Max Verstappen won the first Dutch Grand Prix in 37 years. A milestone in plural. The first podium at home, the first victory of a Dutchman on home soil, back at the top of the World Cup. He drove a perfect race, with a result that also gave even more meaning to the hopes of the past with retroactive effect. I thought of Huub, who for 37 years was the last Dutchman to drive a Grand Prix at Zandvoort. And the minimal chances at the time, which eliminated all the obviousness of Max Verstappen's win at Zandvoort. Because his victory on September 5, 2021 is an immense achievement. Certainly within the perspective of the past.
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