F1 Academy meets DTM - my first time visiting Zandvoort

Driving to Zandvoort to watch the DTM and the F1 Academy was by far my craziest motorsport experience of 2023. Yes, I would return to the track for Formula 1 later in the year, but the 24th of June tested how far my fascination of motorsport and photography would really go. I was already aware how much of a challenge this day would be after setting my alarm for 4:30 in the morning. We had to drive across the whole country of the Netherlands, about three hours to the track.

What motivated me to take this challenge upon me was the jointed race weekend of DTM and F1 Academy. DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) is a German sports car series which returned to Zandvoort after a four-year break for its second race weekend of the season on the 23-25th of June. I hadn’t watched any DTM racing before, but was excited about photographing a different type of race car in addition to the popular Formula cars. The DTM was accompanied on their Zandvoort weekend by a row of support series like the Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux and the Prototype Cup Germany to just name a few.


The support series I was most excited about was F1 Academy. This new all-female FIA championship was launched in 2023 and visited Zandvoort for their fourth of seven championship rounds. My interest in this series was sparked not only by the amazing and talented young women who finally got their spotlight, but especially by the involvement of Formula 1 with the project. F1 Academy was created as an affordable step stone for female drivers, to help them prepare for Formula 3, Formula 2 and finally Formula 1. As a part of this preparation, they race on former and current F1 Grand Prix circuits.

The track in Zandvoort or “The Circuit Park of Zandvoort” as it is officially named was therefore a perfect fit for the F1 Academy calendar. The track had already been hosting Formula 1 races between 1952 and 1985 in its original layout. After a serious renovation and renewal, it joined the calendar again in 2021. Located at the North Sea, the track of 4.307 km swerves around the costal dunes with its iconic banked corners.


The dunes do not only frame the circuit itself, but also the streets leading to the track. It was a beautiful vacation-like sight when we arrived around 9 am, sadly missing both F1 Academy qualifying sessions. The first hour at the track was spent with walking the inside of the track. The area which is closed off as the Paddock during the Formula 1 weekend. We were able to walk past all the garages of the different support series and see the construction of these race cars up close. Soon after, we started our trip around the track on the walking path along and over the dunes.

On this walking path, it was my mission to find some good spots for to start my motorsport photography for the day. I tried to take some photos of the start of the first GT4 Germany race from the high dune on the first corner, but had to realise that my camera was not quite capable of photographing something that far away. I did however take a beautiful shot of the F1 Academy Paddock from this spot.


We spend most of our time a little further along the track between corners 4 and 5, walking up to the very top of the dunes for the best view over the fences. After taking most of my photos there for two hours, we decided to walk around the whole track during the DTM race, getting the best shots possible. Especially turn seven provided a nice view of the cars. It is the highest point of the walking track and is very popular among hobby photographers. The fences are pushed down and cut up in eyesight for a fenceless picture. Turn eight was another one of these popular spots due to the sponsorship banner across the track.


After the race had ended with a dominant pole to win run by Maro Engel we walked to the pit lane for the pit walk. Even people with a General Admission ticket like us had access to the pit lane during this time. Sadly, this resulted in a rather uncomfortable experience because it was even more packed than I had expected it to be. It was a memorable experience to be able to walk down the Zandvoort pit lane, nonetheless.

Following the pit walk, it was finally time for my personal highlight of the day: The first F1 Academy race of the weekend. I was especially focused on getting good photos from this race, as I did not think I was going to see any other Formula cars this year. I had decided that for the race I wanted to return to the spot between turn 4 and 5 we had tested earlier. While I was running from the pits to the spot, the formation lap was already staring. I don’t think I will ever forget how elated I felt, when Lena Bühlers ART Grand Prix was the first car to race past me.

Prior to this day, I had researched the basics about motorsport photography. The panning technique I had tried for the first time hadn’t worked properly all day. But after experimenting with the settings for a little bit, I was able to take my first good panning shots.

The race was won from pole position by MP Motorsport pilot Hamda Al Qubaisi. Her teammate Emely de Heus was able to secure P2 in her home race, and the podium was completed by ART Grand Prix’s Lena Bühler.

F1 Academy’s 2023 and first ever champion Marta García will race in Zandvoort next year in FRECA. The 23-year-old Spanish racer received a fully funded seat with Prema in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine. This championship is a step between the regional Formula 4 championships and Formula 3. In 2024, they will be racing alongside DTM in Zandvoort on the 07th to 09th of June. An event I will surely be attending next year.

F1 Academy will also be returning to Zandvoort this time as a support series for Formula 1 from the 23rd to 25th of August 2024.