The fervor, and the excesses of the Orange Army, fans of Max Verstappen, « unheard of in Formula 1 »

Orange everywhere, and full-throttle techno. Formula 1 met this weekend near Zandvoort, a small seaside town near Amsterdam, for the Dutch Grand Prix, the 15th meeting of the season. And it is an understatement to say that the local of the stage, the world champion Max Verstappen, who moreover contributed to the return of this circuit to the calendar after 36 years of absence, will be greatly encouraged.

To the sound of « Max, Max, Super Max », no doubt. A song created by three supporters of the Dutch driver, Rob Toonen, Marco Mars and Jeroen Hilgenberg, just after his first career victory, in Barcelona in 2016. A sound adapted from the title Johnny Dapp by the German artist Lorenz Büffel, and transformed into « Super Max ». “In two years, we had 10,000 views, which is nothing. But during a Twitch between Lando Norris [pilote McLaren] and Max Verstappen, Lando Norris shared our video to him. And from there, it went viral,” says Rob Toonen. To count more than 30 million plays today, and reach the top 1 in the world for five days on Spotify, after the coronation of Max Verstappen last November.

Since then the song Super Max has become one of the emblems of the pilot’s supporters. “Also because RedBull boss Christian Horner and other riders started calling it Super Max. But I know from a friend of his that he was a little embarrassed by our music at first. But when he saw the turn it was taking, he accepted it. Martin Garrix even made a remix of it, he’s Max Verstappen’s friend. So I’m sure if he didn’t love him, he wouldn’t have let him do that, ”rejoices the singer / supporter.

2016 is a pivotal date in the career of young Max Verstappen, 17 years old at the time, with this famous first victory at the Barcelona Grand Prix, at the wheel of the RedBull. The genesis of music Super Max therefore, but also of the Orange Army, the nickname of his fans. It was on this date that fervent Dutch supporters, disappointed with the Oranje’s non-qualification for Euro 2016, began to take a closer look at the F1 performance of their future champion.

Orange Army

Bas Van Bodegraven did not wait for this date to create the Go Max Verstappen Fan-Club Facebook page, the driver was still in karting eight years ago. “I’ve been following Max since he was 4 or 5 years old, because his father Jors was a very good driver, like his mother, Sophie. When I found out that Jors was going to train Max, I told myself that I had to follow that. It got crazy when he signed his first contract with Toro Rosso, then a little more when he arrived at RedBull, and even more when he won at Barcelona. I had never seen such support for a pilot in the Netherlands”, confides this supporter.

Bas Van Bodegraven's motorhome with which he goes to all the European Grand Prix to support his favorite driver, Max Verstappen.
Bas Van Bodegraven’s motorhome with which he goes to all the European Grand Prix to support his favorite driver, Max Verstappen. – Low Van Bodegraven

Since then, he has been going to « all the European Grand Prix », with his girlfriend, driving his motorhome in the colors of his « Go Max » fan club. They are now several thousand to accompany him on the Grand Prix of Austria, Hungary, Spa, or the Netherlands, the most popular by the Orange Army. « The Dutch travel very easily, so we find each other thanks to the flags, or the color orange », explains Bas Van Bodegraven, whose pages are followed by more than 220,000 people.

Supporters of the Go Max Verstappen Fan Club.
Supporters of the Go Max Verstappen Fan Club. – Low Van Bodegraven

An “Orange Army” application has even been created to facilitate reunions between Max Verstappen supporters, as well as a “Verstappen travel” tab on the official website of the world champion. “They offer seats in the stands and when you take them there you get a free orange t-shirt. That’s why everyone has the same t-shirt, it’s a good organization, with DJs, ”explains this fan.

« A football stadium atmosphere », and its excesses

To the point of seeing scenes never before seen in Formula 1, with drivers embarrassed by the amount of smoke lit in the stands. “A football stadium atmosphere”, summed up the star commentator of Canal +, Julien Febreau during the 2021 Grand Prix of the Netherlands. And that we can only compare in F1 with the fervor of the tifosi of Ferrari, in Monza. With a few exceptions: this support is concentrated only on the Italian circuit and it manifests itself for a team, not for a pilot as is the case of the Orange Army for Verstappen.

A football stadium atmosphere that also includes drifts. Like in Hungary, at the beginning of August, when Verstappen fans burned Lewis Hamilton merchandise. “Yes, that is of course unacceptable. I absolutely do not agree with that because it is simply disgusting, ”condemned Max Verstappen. But for Bas Van Bodegraven, the comparison goes too far: “I have never seen a fight in Formula 1, unlike football stadiums”. Still, F1 owners are closely monitoring this new phenomenon.

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