in Zandvoort, Max Verstappen returns to the roots of « Max-mania »

« I imagine Verstappen won, there is an orange fog.« No, Fernando Alonso was not the victim of hallucinations last year when crossing the finish line of the Dutch Grand Prix. The Alpine driver simply suffered some side effects from a phenomenon that contaminated an entire country: the « Max-mania ». In the stands of the Zandvoort circuit, and more broadly on the entire Formula 1 planet, an orange tide has been breaking tirelessly for several seasons. On the Batavian track, it is with great smoke bombs and overflowing passion expressed in support of Max Verstappen, a fervor such as motorsport has rarely experienced.

At home this weekend, the Red Bull driver will be able to taste his exponential notoriety in the Netherlands a little more. The 2021 world champion is more than a star there, he is an icon who goes far beyond the framework of sport. The Dutch, avid motorsports but who had never known a winning driver in F1 before « MV1 », can explode their almost frenzied chauvinism there even more than elsewhere for the return home of their local hero.

All sports combined, the Batavian people are among the most active when it comes to encouraging their proteges. So when Max Verstappen went from great promise to top driver, his supporters increased in number at high speed. Ferrari had its tifosi and admirers of the brand as much as of its champions. Verstappen concentrates, in his own person, the hopes and the fanaticism of a legion which does not cease growing.

To the point of selling entire stands on certain circuits, such as in Belgium, his native country, in Austria, the stronghold of his Red Bull team, or even in Hungary, one of the countries closest to the Dutch bastion on the championship calendar.

Thousands of Dutch fans during the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race on June 9, 2022. (MINE KASAPOGLU / ANADOLU AGENCY via AFP)

This weekend, however, no need for this « Max Verstappen Official Travel ». It’s simple, we only see orange, as far as the eye can see. Verstappen has become a showcase for an entire country, and a reason for national investment. To host its first Grand Prix since 1985, Zandvoort, a seaside resort nestled in the dunes not far from the North Sea, went so far as to increase the tourist tax for its tourists (50 centimes per head, raising one million euros per year) to contribute to the financial efforts to bring the route up to current safety standards. It was necessary that to have a case where to cheer the one who became an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, the equivalent of the Legion of Honor, at only 24 years old.

We knew it was going to be a real popular success, but receiving more than a million requests… it’s crazy!

Jan Lammers, Sporting Director Circuit Zandvoort

on the Hart van Nederland show

The visual and sound result is striking. In the spans, people scream their joy at the top of their lungs, while the techno hymn « Supermax » to the glory of Verstappen resounds for three days. In 2019, a year before what was to be the first edition of the return to Zandvoort – finally postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 – more than a million ticket requests had been registered, for a circuit capable of accommodating them ten times less per day. « We knew it was going to be a real popular success, but receiving more than a million requests… it’s crazy!“, had then hallucinated Jan Lammers, sports director of the event on the TV show Hart van Nederland.

« It was amazing last yearrejoiced Verstappen at a press conference. Amazing atmosphere, there will be lots of orange so can’t wait for the weekend. You see the people in front of you, they’re having a party. When you get out of the car, they cheer you on, and I’ll just try to take advantage of that. » « In my entire career, I have never seen such a reaction in the public« welcomed Christian Horner, ecstatic boss of the Red Bull team at the microphone of Canal + after the success of his foal last year.

2022 should mark new standards of fury, since no gauge linked to the coronavirus is in place this time. « Everyone is here to support Max, it’s awesome […] it feels like a festival !“Laughs at AFP Léon ten Dam, a Dutch fan present in Zandvoort. Between festival and football stadium, the heart of the Oranje Army still swings, sometimes on the wrong side of supporterism. Investigations have been opened for harassment and insults nauseating of all kinds (sexist, homophobic, racist) uttered by some of Verstappen’s supporters. The person concerned had to intervene in the face of videos showing Lewis Hamilton merchandise being set on fire on the sidelines of the Hungarian Grand Prix. « Yes, this is of course unacceptablereacted the current leader of the championship. I mean, these individuals… No, I totally disagree with that, it’s just disgusting.« 

In the alleys of Zandvoort, the risk of these overflows from the public are different. He was hardly asked – for the form – not to light orange smoke once they arrived at their seat, so as not to obstruct visibility on the track. Hardly lost since the start of the weekend, when the qualifying session, dominated by Verstappen, had to be interrupted following the throwing of a rocket on the track. Fernando Alonso cannot be surprised this time.

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