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Dutchmen in Formula One

Almost unnoticed in the controversies of the Italian Grand Prix, it was announced that the Dutch company, Spyker, had bought the Midland MF1 team. The cars will run as Spykers in future.

Although the rumor mill has been trying to raise enthusiasm for this transaction all summer, I suspect that the general reaction has been of the order, “Who cares?” Small teams often change hands and it rarely makes a difference to their chances in the races.

I must confess to being pleased to see another Dutch presence in the sport, however. This probably goes back to my support for the little-known Dutch driver, Jan Lammers, who raced in F1 between 1979 and 1982 (with a brief return for March in 1992, thereby setting the record for the longest break between F1 drives).


Jan Lammers in the ATS D4

Jan scored no points in his entire F1 career but that is an unfair reflection of his talent. He drove for Shadow, ATS and Ensign/Theodore, none of which teams had much chance of scoring in those years. You needed to see him race to realize how good he was.

In particular, I remember his greatest moment, the US Grand Prix West at Long Beach in 1980. Jan achieved a near-miracle by putting the uncompetitive ATS D4 into 4th spot on the grid. At last, I thought, we are going to see something special from Jan.

But it was not to be. On the first lap of the race, the ATS transmission gave up the ghost and we were left with thoughts of what might have been. And Jan was never to have a better chance of demonstrating his skills as the D4 resumed its normal uncompetitiveness for the rest of the year.

Jan dropped out of F1 in 1982 and moved to sports cars, where his skills soon became apparent. In 1988 he won the Le Mans 24 hours race for Jaguar, their first victory since 1957. Jan’s record in sports cars has been outstanding and he now owns a team in the A1 Grand Prix series running Jos Verstappen and Jeroen Bleekemolen as drivers. But I often wonder how Jan would have done had he obtained a decent drive in F1.

And now Spyker renew the Dutch presence. It would be good to see them take the MF1 team to new heights.

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