This weekend was supposed to mark the return of the Dutch Grand Prix to the Formula 1 calendar after a multi-decade absence. Max Verstappen is currently the only Dutch driver on the grid, but who were his predecessors? Motorsport Week’s resident Dutchman takes a look at the history of Dutch racing drivers in Formula 1.
In total, Formula One has seen 16 drivers of Dutch nationality race in the sport since 1952.
The early years
The first Dutch drivers to appear in Formula 1 were the pair of Jan Flinterman and Dries van der Lof. They both raced in their home race, the 1952 Dutch Grand Prix. Flinterman, who served with both the Dutch and British air forces during World War II, piloted a Maserati while industrialist Van der Lof took part in an HWM-Alta. Neither would see the chequered flag as Flinterman retired in the early stages and Van der Lof’s HWM gave up the ghost on lap 70. It would be the pair’s only Grand Prix appearances.
The country’s first regular Formula 1 driver was a Porsche enthusiast and eccentric nobleman by the name of Carel Godin de Beaufort, who ran his cars in a vibrant orange, reflecting his nationality. He took part in 31 Grands Prix and became the first Dutchman to score points before he was killed behind the wheel of his Porsche 718 at the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. To this day, he remains the only Dutch driver to have perished during a Grand Prix.
During the 1962 season, De Beaufort had a compatriot as his team-mate for that year’s Dutch Grand Prix. Ben Pon became the Netherlands’ fourth F1 driver when he lined up alongside his more experienced team-mate but would crash out of the race after he hit a sand bank and was thrown out of his car. He survived the crash but never returned to F1, although he would go on to take two class wins at Le Mans.
A third Dutch driver, Rob Slotemaker, was entered but ultimately withdrawn after his car couldn’t make the start. Slotemaker remained influential at Zandvoort for decades as he owned a driving school at the track, which still operates to this day. It was through this school that Zandvoort native Jan Lammers began his journey in motorsport. He was killed in a sportscar raced at Zandvoort in 1979. Slotemaker’s influence at Zandvoort is so great that Turn 6 is called the Rob Slotemakerbocht in his memory.
Le Mans winners and newspaper ads
The 70s and 80s featured an increase in Dutch participation in Formula 1. The first was Gijs van Lennep. Van Lennep, a double Le Mans winner and often considered one of the country’s greatest racing drivers, took part in 12 grands prix between 1971 and 1975. His debut at the 1971 Dutch Grand Prix came just a week after his Le Mans win alongside Helmut Marko in the Martini International Porsche 917K. He finished eighth in his Surtees-Ford. He would race for Frank Williams Racing Cars and Ensign and retired from F1 following the 1975 German Grand Prix.
The Ensign squad would also field Roelof Wunderink in 1975 alongside Van Lennep and Chris Amon, but he failed to score a point in his three race starts. Boy Hayje and Michael Bleekemolen, father of accomplished GT racer Jeroen, both entered a handful of races in Penske, March and ATS machinery but scored no points.
In 1979 Lammers was the next driver to represent the country in Formula 1. After being discovered by the previously mentioned Rob Slotemaker, Lammers had gone on to win the 1978 European Formula 3 Championship and made his debut with Shadow before racing with ATS, Theodore and Ensign. He scored no points out of 39 entries but occasionally managed to impress, such as when he put his ATS D4 fourth on the grid at Long Beach, only behind Nelson Piquet, Rene Arnoux and Patrick Depailler and ahead of the likes of Gilles Villeneuve, Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter. In 1992, he returned to F1 after a decade away for two races at the end of the season with Leyton House March.
While Lammers was on his F1 sabbatical and conquering the world of endurance racing, another Dutchman took his place in the form of Huub Rothengatter. Rothengatter could be classed as a pay driver by today’s standards thanks to his drive to find financial backing through sponsors. One of the ways he went about this is by famously taking out page-wide adverts in national newspapers to try and get major companies to back his F1 venture. One of these ads, aimed at electrical appliance firm Philips, bluntly said ‘Interested, Mr. Philips?’ Rothengatther (or Rattengott, as Niki Lauda allegedly once referred to him) spent three seasons in F1, racing for Spirit, Zakspeed and Osella.
The rise of Verstappen
After Rothengatter’s exit from Osella, F1 went without Dutch representation for a number of years until Benetton signed a promising youngster by the name of Jos Verstappen. Both Flavio Briatore and then star driver Michael Schumacher sang Verstappen’s praises upon his arrival and he was upgraded from test driver to race driver following a pre-season injury for JJ Lehto. It was an up-and-down campaign for Verstappen, who had several spills and was even involved in a terrifying pit lane fire at the German Grand Prix, but also took two podiums, making him the most successful Dutch F1 driver in history at that stage.
He was replaced full-time for 1995 by Johnny Herbert after losing his seat to the Briton in the final two races of the 1994 season. Verstappen would spend the rest of his F1 career in in mid-to-lower field cars, driving for Simtek, Stewart, Tyrrell, Arrows before ending his career with Minardi in 2003.
He scored 17 points in 107 Grand Prix starts, making him easily one of the most successful Dutch drivers F1 has ever seen. After retiring from driving, he focused his attention on his offspring and began grooming his son Max for a future in F1. More on him shortly…
The new millennium
Two years after Jos Verstappen left Minardi, the Dutch tricolour returned to the cockpit of Paul Stoddard’s team when it promoted DTM star and test driver Christijan Albers to a race seat, partnering Patrick Friesacher for the 2005 season. At the German Grand Prix, Friesacher was replaced by Robert Doornbos, although he spent 2005 racing under a Monegasque license.
Both drivers left Minardi after 2005. Albers moved to Midland, while Doornbos took on a reserve role at Red Bull. When Red Bull grew tired of Klien, Doornbos stepped into the RB2 for the final trio of races in 2006, but that was the end of his time in F1, and he moved on to compete in America. Albers, on the other hand, completed the 2006 season with Midland, where he was involved in a spectacular crash at Imola after being struck by Yuji Ide’s Super Aguri. Albers rolled over several times before landing in the gravel upside down.
When Dutch supercar builder Spyker took over Midland for the 2007 season, Albers remained with the team. He struggled throughout the first half of the season and was outpaced by rookie team-mate Adrian Sutil. His low point came at the 2007 French Grand Prix at Magny Cours, where he tore off the fuel hose during a pit stop and subsequently retired. His F1 career would last one more race before he was axed after the British Grand Prix. Albers briefly returned to F1 in 2014 when he was appointed team boss for the flailing Caterham squad. His time on the pit wall was brief.
The Spyker saga, which ultimately culminated in the team becoming Force India, involved another Dutch driver: Giedo van der Garde. The current WEC driver had been confirmed as Super Aguri’s test and reserve driver in late 2006, but was surprisingly confirmed in the same role at Spyker in 2007. This evolved into a contract dispute between the teams as Super Aguri claimed that their contract was still valid. Van der Garde ultimately went to Spyker, but plans for a Friday test role were canned when a superlicense could not be obtained from the FIA.
Van der Garde made his race debut six years later when he signed for Caterham to partner Charles Pic for the 2013 season. He took part in 19 grands prix, but failed to score a point and then moved to Sauber as test and reserve driver for 2014. The following year, he became the centerpoint of another legal firestorm when the Swiss team signed Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson to race in the 2015 season. Van der Garde, claiming he’d been guaranteed a 2015 race seat the year prior, took the matter to the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution in 2014, which ruled in his favour. Van der Garde then filed to a court in Australia to ensure the decision was upheld over the Australian Grand Prix weekend, which was also granted. The Dutchman ultimately backed down and eventually reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Sauber, but did not race in F1 again.
Max Verstappen needs little introduction. The son of double podium finisher Jos became the sixteenth Dutch F1 driver and the youngest driver to ever start a Grand Prix at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso, at just 17 years, 166 days. He impressed in his debut season, notably passing Felipe Nasr’s Sauber on the outside at Blanchimont during the Belgian Grand Prix. In 2016, he earned a shock promotion to Red Bull Racing to replace the struggling Daniil Kyvat ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. Verstappen would go on to win the race and become the youngest Grand Prix winner at 18 years and 228 days, instantly becoming the most successful F1 driver the Netherlands has ever produced. He has since remained with Red Bull and added more victories in 2017, 2018 and 2019, bringing his tally up to eight. Verstappen scored his maiden pole position last year in Hungary, the first for a Dutch driver in Formula 1, and went on to classify third in the Drivers’ Championship.
Verstappen is currently under contract with Red Bull until the end of 2023 and is seen by many as a future World Champion.