Orange human waves swaying in the stands of the Zandvoort circuit testify to the successful return of the Formula 1 World Championship to the Netherlands this week after 36 years of absence, and to the spread of fever surrounding national champion Max Verstappen.
In the summer of 2019, at a time when the Dutch Grand Prix, which first saw the light of day in 1985, was likely to be held, in May 2020, 300,000 Dutch people entered the draw to award 500,000 tickets (i.e. a million individual applications).
The Corona virus stopped this expected date, but this week the decisive hour will strike for 70,000 lucky people to follow every day and for 3 days, the Dutch Grand Prix, i.e. 67 percent of the circuit’s capacity.
“I have never seen an athlete in an individual sport be so popular in our country,” says Eric Van Harn, who covers Formula 1 for the daily newspaper De Telegraaf, speaking of Verstappen.
As for Abond Nards, 58, who started following the first category with Verstappen’s arrival at the Toro Rosso team in 2015, crossing the tracks wearing an orange lion uniform, “He is at the top, at the same level as the football players Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten.”
Before Dutch fans could claim their own grand prix, more than 10,000 Dutch people gathered in a hall in Amsterdam for the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.
They travel in droves to Belgium, Austria, Hungary or even Germany, everyone dressed in orange, loud noises and orange smoke flares, so it’s hard to go unnoticed!
“Other drivers tell me that the numbers of Dutch fans who go to the races are crazy,” said Verstappen with a smile.
Russian driver Nikita Mazepin adds: “They have something different in their blood. They express a lot of feelings, and it is fun to see them.”
This commitment reflects positively on the world championship, so Dutch motorsport journalist Jo van Burek says: “Before him, “Formula-1” was third in the local sports ranking after football and speed skating, now it is in second place, closer to football.
Audience figures revealed in January 2020 showed the following: With more than 100 million viewers in total in 2019, the Netherlands was one of the five largest markets in this category with Brazil, Germany, Italy and Britain also rising. cumulatively, the followers behind television screens account for 56 percent, and 31.1 percent of the number of viewers.
Although 15 Dutch drivers have competed in the world championship and have won 393 Grand Prix together since 1950, none of them managed to podium before Max’s father, Jos Verstappen, on two occasions in 1994, and no one had won the podium. Of them, before the victory tape that “Mad Max” cut in 2016, where he won 16 races so far.
The Netherlands discovered single-seater racing during the “yos the boss” era, a “Verstappen effect 1.0”, according to van Burek.
Verstappen, Jr., who defends the colors of the Red Bull team, is not different from what was previously said; He asserts that “thanks to my father, the fans started following me,” adding: “They followed him, and then they themselves or their children as motorsport enthusiasts, automatically took an interest in me.”
In the same context, Yos confirms in the promotional program for (Formula-1): “I probably had the biggest club for the fans, it was a lot of media hype, but nothing compares to what is happening with Max.”
Verstappen’s achievements this year are in his favour, as his record includes winning 16 races, 51 podiums and nine poles.
We can also attribute the overwhelming popularity to the difficult period the Dutch national football team is going through and Verstappen’s “outspoken, straightforward, exemplary Dutch personality,” explains Arkhan Schuten, a journalist specializing in “Formula-1” who works for the daily AD.
Verstappen, the youngest winner in the history of “Formula-1” when he won first place at the age of 18 years, 7 months and 15 days in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix and who lives in the principality of Monaco, admits “his inability to walk with his family in the streets of his mother country”.