I was supposed to be covering the first Dutch Grand Prix in 35 years today. All of us would have sat tight as the current crop of drivers piloted their halo-ed contemporary open-wheelers around Zandvoort for the first time in decades. It would have been exciting to be sure, but I’m not sure it would have topped the last one.
Back in 1985, as a cohort of some of the finest racers ever to squeeze themselves behind the wheel of a Formula One car got used to the universality of the 1.5-liter turbocharged motor, the competition at the top of motorsport was fierce.
With competitors like Ayrton Senna, Martin Brundle, Keke Rosberg and Nigel Mansell all giving chase to McLaren teammates Alain Prost and Niki Lauda, the board was stacked.
Though we can’t watch any live open-wheel racing today, the entirety of the 1985 race is available to watch right here. With those turbocharged little engines wailing away, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of one of the most legendary eras in motorsport, even when the prospect of real racing returning seems grim.
With Rosberg out of the way with early engine trouble, the race comes down to a fight between Ayton Senna in his iconic John Player Special Lotus and the McLaren teammates Prost and Lauda. Prost had managed to expand his lead to more than twenty seconds at some points in the middle of the race. It wouldn’t be enough though, and Lauda pulled off one final win, his twenty-fifth all told.
With this year’s Dutch Grand Prix postponed or canceled, Lauda’s 1985 achievement remains the last win at Zandvoort until this day. After the race in 1985, the track owners found themselves insolvent and had to sell off some of the track’s land. That marked the end of Grand Prix racing in the Netherlands.
Back when we couldn’t anticipate an international pandemic, preparation for this year’s return to Zandvoort was at a fever pitch. With Dutchman (and excellent first name-haver) Max Verstappen one of the biggest stars in racing right now, it seemed like as good a time as ever to bring back the race. There were even some epic giant banked turns planned to make up for the parts of the circuit that had been sold off. But here we are, sitting at home, no racing from the Netherlands to be seen. Oh well, at least there’s Lauda’s monster 1985 win to remember.