F1 drivers fear "nightmare" Dutch GP qualifying traffic

Formula 1 drivers have warned of a “nightmare” qualifying shootout for the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix due to traffic at a Zandvoort circuit where it is “impossible to disappear”.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

At 2.65 miles, the seaside venue is the second shortest on the calendar behind only Monaco.

These tight confines have already led to several incidents throughout Friday practice of drivers complaining of having been blocked.

Notably, Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg has escaped a punishment from the stewards for potentially impeding Max Verstappen through the Turn 12 left-hander during FP2.

But drivers fear this matter could come to a head during a congested qualifying session, with FP2 pacesetter Lando Norris saying Friday running had already resulted in "chaos".

The McLaren driver told Sky Sports: “It’s already pretty chaotic, so I’m not expecting an easy [qualifying] or straightforward one. A lot of people blocking and causing chaos today.

“It’s always worse here because it’s such a short lap. High-speed corners always at the end of the lap is a tricky one.”

Likewise, Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu’s “crazy” experiences on Friday has left him to predict a potential “nightmare”. He added: “I think today, already, my runs, it’s crazy.

"Not just the high speed, obviously, when there’s a car even out of your way, you kind of get distracted a little bit with the wind effect.

“But especially the end of T12 is going to be mental, like all the other years! Hopefully we don’t make any mistakes.”

His Alfa team-mate Valtteri Bottas said that the flowing nature of Zandvoort and its lack of obvious straights made it “impossible to disappear” if he needed to get out the way of a closing car on a flying lap.

The Finn told F1TV: “It’s tricky here, short track, not much space between the cars and some places it’s almost impossible to disappear from the fast cars behind.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Speaking to the print media, Bottas added: “Off-line it’s quite dusty so there’s only really one proper line that you can take.

“Also with traffic, when some people are pushing and you need to move over, it’s quite tricky when you collect the dust.

“You definitely need quite a few corners to clean it up.

“The only thing here is, after Turn 3, that straight towards the high-speed corners, it’s quite narrow and always turning somewhere.

"It’s almost impossible to disappear in some places from the line.”

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Williams driver Alex Albon has again suggested the idea that the field should be split into groups to ease traffic in qualifying.

He said: “It’s tough. It’s always been a problem. I think, as drivers often asked to split groups for qualifying. Monaco, here, Red Bull Ring.

“It would be nice to have an A and B [group] for Q1 just to calm it down. These tyres need to rest and when you rest them, a lot of traffic.

“It keeps you on your toes, even on your cool-down laps.”

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