Dutch Grand Prix hit with protests

The Dutch Royal Family paid a surprise visit to the circuit at Zandvoort ahead of the return of Formula 1.

King Willem-Alexander made an unannounced appearance alongside his eldest daughter, Princess Amalia, during the qualifying round of the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Zandvoort circuit on Saturday. 

This marked a significant moment as the monarch and his daughter showed their support for the event. 

The Dutch Royal Family has been no stranger to the Formula 1 races, having attended the Dutch Grand Prix in 2021 after its 36-year hiatus.

In a surprising turn of events, King Willem-Alexander was accompanied by Queen Máxima and their daughters, Amalia and Ariane. 

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Their presence was felt throughout the circuit, especially since King Willem-Alexander’s cousin, Bernhard, is a co-owner of the Zandvoort circuit. 

The royal family has maintained close ties with the circuit, evident from their interactions over the past couple of years. Bernhard’s parents, Princess Margriet and Pieter van Vollenhoven, as well as his brother Pieter-Christiaan, have also been among the esteemed visitors.

As the excitement mounted before the Grand Prix, the royal family had the opportunity to meet with the racing sensation Max Verstappen in the pit lane. 

Verstappen graciously offered them a glimpse into his pit box and even the cockpit of his Red Bull car.

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The driver’s father, Jos Verstappen, and the team principal, Christian Horner, also had the honor of engaging with the royal family during this exclusive encounter.

However, not all was smooth sailing on this race day. Approximately 70 demonstrators from Extinction Rebellion (XR) gathered near the Zandvoort race track in a bid to voice their concerns against Formula 1. 

These activists embarked on a protest ride from Haarlem to Zandvoort, highlighting their opposition to the event due to perceived noise pollution, significant nitrogen emissions, and the ecological impact on the surrounding dunes.

The protest saw a convergence of around 100 demonstrators from various groups, including Milieudefensie, Grandparents for the Climate, Rust bij de Kust, and the Dune Conservation Foundation. 

The collective goal of these climate advocates was to emphasise the importance of preserving the delicate dune ecosystem, home to various vulnerable plant and animal species. 

Their presence and speeches underscored the message that people should tread humbly in this natural habitat.

The demonstrators meticulously planned their protest, ensuring it did not obstruct the visitors or the Formula 1 drivers. 

The activists refrained from getting too close to the racetrack, opting to stay approximately 2 kilometers away. 

The beach became a canvas for their message, as they formed the XR logo and chanted slogans to garner attention.

“We do not feel that we can stop the event immediately,” expressed XR spokesperson Lowie van Liere.

He further elaborated, stating, “But we want to make our voice heard: Formula 1 is no longer possible.” 

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Their primary contention revolved around the emissions of nitrogen by racing cars, which could adversely affect the vulnerable dune ecosystem, where species like the sandstripe lizard and the natterjack toad thrive.

Recent history reveals the intensity of these climate protests, with 10 XR activists arrested a week prior for blocking the circuit’s entrance. 

David Moolenburgh, the mayor of Zandvoort, acknowledged the collaboration with the activists for this bicycle campaign, suggesting a cooperative approach to address the concerns raised by Extinction Rebellion.