SuperMax Army. How the Netherlands went racing over the years
Even in the last decade in the Netherlands, no one seriously thought about the prospects for holding the Formula 1 stage in the country. In the early 2010s, Royal Races were not very popular with the Dutch. Therefore, the Zandvoort circuit was not of any interest to the promoters. And those few Dutch F1 fans had only to dream that someday their country would host the stage of the Royal Race again. However, that all changed in 2015 when Max Verstappen made his Formula 1 debut . It was from this moment that the Netherlands really “got sick” with racing. In just a couple of years, Max managed to put together his own fan base, as well as become one of the main athletes of his country. And it was thanks to Verstappen that Formula 1 returned to the Zandvoort track 36 years later.
Before Max, the most iconic Dutchman in F1 was his father, Jos
Since the very first seasons of Formula 1, the Netherlands has been in close contact with the world of Royal Racing. At a time when the F1 season had fewer than ten stages, Zandvoort often had the honor of being on the coveted list. Since the 1950s, Formula 1 has paid an official visit to the Netherlands thirty times. Over time, the Dutch circuit became a real classic of Royal Racing and only in 1985 left the world of high speeds.
It would seem that for this solid time period the Dutch had every chance of falling in love with Formula 1, and the regular holding of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort should have contributed to this. However, in reality, everything is not so simple. Indeed, in order to truly “infect” a country with races, the presence of an F1 stage on its territory is often not enough. But what can arouse interest in motorsport from a distant audience is local representation in such a global championship as Formula 1. And this is where Dutch motorsport gets into serious trouble.
Max Verstappen became the 15th representative of the Netherlands, who had the honor to enter the start of the Formula 1 race. Of the fourteen previous subjects of the kingdom in F1, about half of the pilots were unable to spend a full season, participating only in individual races. The first Dutchman to gain a foothold in the Royal Races was the representative of the noble family Karel-Gauden de Beaufort , whose formula career took place in the early 1960s. To participate in F1, he even created his own team, for which he played on a client chassis. In the Royal races, de Beaufort did not gain high-profile success, but he became the first Dutchman in history to score points in Formula 1.
The next “stable” Dutchman in F1 had to wait more than ten years. In 1979, Zandvoort native Jan Lammers made his debut with the humble Shadow . He also failed to show off results in the Royal Races: in four seasons spent in outside teams, Lammers never managed to get to the points zone. But Jan holds a rather interesting record: having returned to F1 ten years after the last stage held, he withstood the longest pause between participation in the Grand Prix in the history of the Royal Race. The achievement is quite amusing, but this is clearly not enough to make the country cling to TV screens during the start of the next race.
Then, in the early 1990s, Jos Verstappen came to the fore . Unlike his compatriots, Jos showed good promise at an early stage in his career. In 1993, he took the title in German Formula 3 and in September of the same year he conducted his first tests in F1 for the Futwork team. When he first got behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, Verstappen immediately drove at the pace of more experienced pilots, which delighted the racing community. Soon after the Dutchman there was a line of several F1 teams: Benetton won the battle for the talented junior.
The 1994 season Verstappen began as a test driver, but the injury, and then the unsuccessful performances of Järvilehto, allowed the Dutchman to become Schumacher’s partner during the season. That championship was generally the most successful in Yos’s formula career. Indeed, it was in 1994 that Verstappen managed to become the first Dutchman in the history of F1 to climb the podium. In theory, perhaps, Verstappen could have become the very person who awakened the passion for motorsport in the Dutch. But in subsequent seasons, Jos spent in the middle peasants and outsiders and could not come close to the results of 1994. Nevertheless, it was Jos Verstappen who has long been considered the most iconic F1 pilot in the history of the Netherlands.
Already at the age of 18, Max Verstappen became the main pilot in the history of the country. Today F-1 is watched by almost 10% of the population of the Netherlands
After Jos Verstappen, Christian Albers became the next Dutchman in the Royal Races . We can say that he was a classic rent-driver who did not remember anything and ended his career in F1 due to funding problems. By the way, in 2005 Albers’ partner in Minardi was another Dutchman Robert Dornbos, although he competed under a Monegasque racing license. Well, in 2013, the F-1 peloton was replenished in the future by the scandalous Guido van der Garde, who also did not gain much success.
By the mid-2010s, the Dutch representative office in F1 was associated with pilots performing in far from strong teams. However, in 2015, everything changed dramatically: Max Verstappen made his debut in the Royal Races . From the very beginning of his formula career, the young Dutchman attracted a lot of attention both within his country and abroad. As a junior, Verstappen was considered one of the most talented pilots of his generation. In 2014, a serious struggle broke out for Max between two giants – Red Bull and Mercedes. As a result, the battle for the young talent was won by Dr. Marco, who promised the Verstappen family a place in F1 next season.
Already in his debut race for Toro Rosso, Max made history by becoming the youngest participant in the Formula 1 Grand Prix: on the day of the start at the Albert Park track, he was only 17 years old! Verstappen clearly stood out against the background of the previous Dutch representatives in F1 – if only by the fact that quite tangible prospects for a successful career loomed in front of him. Still, Max was in the Red Bull system, and Dr. Marco believed immensely in the young Dutchman – so much so that the next year he transferred him to the main team of the bulls.
Well, then history was happening: Verstappen won his debut race for Red Bull, at the same time becoming the youngest winner in the history of F1. It was on that day that Max Verstappen established himself as the main figure in Dutch motorsport, because he became the first representative of the kingdom who was honored to rise to the top step of the podium. At that time he was 18 years old.
Verstappen’s exploits immediately piqued the interest of the Dutch in racing, because Max’s Spanish triumph was not like a one-off action. Still, he played for the top team, besides, the leadership of the Austrian team clearly relied on Verstappen. These two facts combined gave some hope to the Dutch that in the foreseeable future in Formula 1 may appear the first champion from the Netherlands. Well, or at least the Dutch will have their own hero who regularly takes part in the struggle for high places.
Over time, Verstappen more and more asserted himself in the status of a national hero, increasing his own fan base every year. Thanks to Max, the whole world learned what the Orange Sea is, and the stages in Austria and Belgium were practically captured by the Dutch fans. According to the Dutch research center Stichting Kijkonderzoek, the permanent audience of Formula 1 in the Netherlands today is 1.5 million people – almost 9% of the country’s population. In view of the steady growth in the popularity of motorsport in the country, the well-known company Heineken saw prospects in the revival of the Formula 1 stage in the Netherlands. After all, if the “orange sea” is formed every year at the “Red Bull Ring” and “Spa-Francorchamps”, then at the “Zandvoort” it will be even more so. What we have already seen during the Friday workouts.