Formula One's Dutch Grand Prix Under Fire For Environmental Reasons

Photo: Formula 1

While Formula One’s Dutch Grand Prix may have secured a slot in the series’ prospective 2020 calendar, the race is far from guaranteed to happen. That’s because of a rare case of F1 coming face-to-face with governmental regulations.

Nitrogen emissions are proving to be the biggest sticking point. The Council of State in the Netherlands instituted something called a Nitrogen Approach Program back in May. The aim of this program is, essentially, to lower nitrogen emission levels to ensure ecological conservation in Natura 2000 areas—or, places where threatened species reside.

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This has presented a huge sticking point for Zandvoort.

Yes, Zandvoort does host plenty of other races throughout the year, which don’t create as much of a fuss. But it’s the sheer scope of the upgrades that must be made to bring the circuit up to FIA spec that are presenting the biggest problems. Over 18,000 projects are currently on hold in the Netherlands, as the construction industry is one of the most affected industries, Motorsport.com reports. It’s hard to see how construction will be completed in time for the race with such significant delays.

From Motorsport.com:

Before the May rule change, building permits could be granted on the basis of the NAP, with the nitrogen emitted being compensated for later.

The decision by the Council of State has made it impossible for this to happen any longer: the nitrogen emissions must be compensated for immediately during the actual construction work.

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The Dutch government is trying to make things happen. Minister Bruno Bruins has said that most people really want a successful Grand Prix to take place.

But “most people” does not include everyone. Environmental groups working with Zandvoort have been pushing back against track construction—one of the biggest being Stichting Duinbehoud (or, Dune Conservation Zandvoort).

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Here’s more from the article:

It has argued that for the well-being of animals and the environment, a stop be put to the grand prix’s return.

The protesting groups fear ‘irreparable damage’ to the dunes and claim that the natural habitat of sand lizards will be severely damaged.

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Circuit officials have already cooperated in relocating sand lizards—but they haven’t actually completed many of the necessary nature and environmental permits that would actually enable a race to take place. This isn’t a problem yet since there’s still plenty of time before the race itself. But the delay isn’t reassuring any environmental groups, who want those permits completed ASAP.

While prospective F1 races face their fair share of pushback from just about everyone—local residents, businesses, governments, etc—it is unusual for F1 to confront an actual governmental regulation that restricts or outright rejects its ability to host a race.

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Take the ill-fated Miami Grand Prix, for example. There was so much pushback by local residents and businesses that the race plans were just outright canceled. In that case, the arguments against the prospective track were often related to economics and noise: a street circuit could negatively affect the businesses skirting the track, and residents weren’t eager to listen to all that noise.

But noise pollution is a far different beast than emissions. While efforts have been made to make the sport greener (think hybrid engines), F1 is still a significant source of emissions. It’s entirely possible to ignore residential noise concerns when it comes to hosting a race. It is far harder to skirt around the government.

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It’s still possible that the Dutch Grand Prix could go forward, but these issues don’t paint a very promising picture of Zandvoort’s future.

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About the author

Elizabeth Blackstock

Staff writer. Motorsport fanatic. Proud owner of a 2013 Mazda 2.