Former Zandvoort director bemoans ‘insanely clumsy’ politics around Dutch GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on track during the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort, September 2022. Credit: Alamy
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on track during the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort, September 2022. Credit: Alamy

Former Zandvoort circuit director Jim Vermeulen believes the local political stand-off in the area over hosting the Dutch Grand Prix has been poorly handled.

There is currently conflict between the local government in Zandvoort and Dutch Grand Prix organisers over a so-called ‘entertainment tax’ that local politicians are looking at introducing, to try and raise funds to cover local costs of hosting the race, which they claim is around €600,000 [£530,000].

This tax would cause an increase in ticket prices for race-going fans and the funds would be used to offset the costs to the local government, but former Formula 1 driver and current Dutch GP sporting director Jan Lammers has been vocal in opposition to the move, claiming the money brought to the local economy by fans over the race weekend outweighs the cost to the municipality multiple times over, and fans should not have their ticket prices go up on this basis.

Explaining the local government’s perspective, Jerry Kramer, Jong Zandvoort party chairman told Dutch publication De Telegraaf in December: “The management of the Dutch Grand Prix must realise that they desperately need us.

“This way, it will be a difficult story. As a municipality, we incur costs for Formula 1 every year, around €600,000. This way, I do not support investing that amount again. Recently, as coalition parties, we once again backed this tax.

“The Dutch Grand Prix cannot simply assume that we are sponsoring them. They should realise that they are risking the future of F1 with this.”

“They just assume that the municipality pays for everything. It is public money. The entertainment tax is now being dismissed as a ‘fun tax’, as if we wanted to make a profit. But Formula 1 has already cost the municipality millions. now it is time for this to be paid back properly.”

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But Lammers was unmoved in response to Kramer’s words, quoted by Motorsport.com as saying: “In addition to over 16 million euros of additional turnover for Zandvoort over the past two years, there is also a tremendously high pride rating from Zandvoort residents and entrepreneurs.”

“If you then utter words like ‘it is now time to pay back’ and ‘that they are considering stopping the Grand Prix’, we will hear during the administrative meeting in mid-January whether that is the official position of this council. I assume that Zandvoort’s residents and entrepreneurs will also have their say on this.”

This has created an impasse between the two parties regarding the hosting of the race, which has become an instant hit among fans since its re-introduction to the calendar in 2021.

Vermeulen was previously director at Zandvoort for six years through its previous stint in Formula 1, and he explained why the talk around the ‘entertainment tax’ need not have been as divisive as it has been between both parties.

“First of all, I think it is insanely clumsy how they have handled it,” Vermeulen told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.

“If I had been the municipality, I would have gone to the circuit immediately after last year’s success and had a discussion with them about how to proceed in the future with the costs they incur for Formula 1.

“The VAT levied on the tickets obviously does not go into the municipal coffers, nor do the profits made by local entrepreneurs. So while 20 million may be earned during such a weekend, the municipality sees none of it.

“But if they had engaged in timely talks, they would undoubtedly have come to a solution and all this negative publicity would not have been there.

“In any case, this way it was extremely awkward. This clearly should have been done differently.”

Formula 1 will continue to race at Zandvoort until 2025 at least after the circuit’s contract to host the sport was extended by two years, and the first two editions of the relaunched Dutch GP have seen a sea of orange-clad fans cheer Max Verstappen on to victory at his home race.

A tourist tax is not uncommon in towns and cities in Europe, through a small daily rate charged to people staying in the local area which is fed back to the local authority, and is reportedly set to be €3.30 in the town in 2023.

Zandvoort is a coastal town of fewer than 20,000 people, before the Dutch Grand Prix brings more than 100,000 fans per day to the circuit when Formula 1 comes to the Netherlands.

With that, Vermeulen suggested a way around the issue could be a rise in the tourist tax in the town over the race week, as is used in Assen for when it hosts the Dutch TT.

“Perhaps you could temporarily increase the rate around the Grand Prix to 5.00 euros, or something similar,” he said. “You probably won’t fully cover the costs with it, but it could solve part of the problem, and for the remainder you could possibly have made an arrangement with the circuit.”

“I don’t understand it at all,” Vermeulen added when discussing the view of local politicians.

“As Zandvoort, you should actually be very happy to be on the map like this internationally. The organisation has done a very good job with the first two editions. It’s an event you should be careful of as a local government.”

 

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