ZANDVOORT, Netherlands - As the small seaside town of Zandvoort greeted an orange army of Max Verstappen fans for the third year in a row on Sunday, Dutch Formula One Grand Prix organisers were looking to secure the race's place on the calendar for years to come.
Formula One returned to the Netherlands after 36 years in 2021 and Zandvoort's picturesque track with its banked curves in the dunes west of Amsterdam immediately made it stand out among the more than 20 other races.
Verstappen's home Grand Prix, which he is looking to win for a third straight win from pole position on Sunday, is a guaranteed fixture through the 2025 season, but it is unclear what will happen after.
"We feel Formula One is very happy with us," former F1 driver Jan Lammers, a Zandvoort native who was one of the driving forces behind the return of the Dutch Grand Prix, told Reuters.
The enormous popularity of Verstappen, the first Dutch Formula One champion, has helped sell over 300,000 tickets in an instant every year, but Lammers said Zandvoort's appeal goes beyond its dominant home driver.
"We bring more than just a race," he said. "Traditionally, a Grand Prix offered just two hours of entertainment on Sunday. But we felt we could do much better with a range of festivities in the run up to the race and we have succeeded, it's been buzzing here all week."
This approach should help Zandvoort stay competitive with new venues around the globe which offer to pay Formula One a lot more for their place on the calendar.
"In the short term, these races are a threat, but in the long run it's about marketing and market value," Lammers said.
"Maybe our fee to Formula One is only a third of the going rate. But if we, with Max, help broaden the global audience and lift the overall spirit around the sport then the overall calculations start to look positive."
This approach was backed by Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix.
"Zandvoort has raised the bar," he said in an interview with Dutch daily Telegraaf published on Saturday, adding that he had had initial talks with local organisers about the race's future beyond 2025.
"Everything is still on the table," Lammers said. "Together we'll have to see what the best option is, either continue every year or maybe rotate yearly with another track. But the future for Zandvoort is looking bright."
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, editing by Ed Osmond)