Verstappen braces for F1 'sea of orange'

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Max Verstappen heads to the Dutch coast this week and will be greeted by a 'sea of orange'.

Fans will pack the stands around the dunes of Zandvoort as Formula One makes its long-awaited return to the Netherlands, largely because of the Dutch Red Bull driver.

"I wouldn't have expected this myself just a few years ago," Verstappen said. "After the race was cancelled last year, it will be even more special this year."

His fans are being asked to be on their best behaviour and abide by coronavirus protocols, with the Dutch government allowing up to 70,000 spectators a day.

The approval for two-thirds capacity for those vaccinated, recovered or tested has caused a heated debate in the Netherlands with many other similar events still banned.

However, the millions invested in the modernisation of Zandvoort - a town of just 17000 - the fact they had to wait an extra year because of the pandemic and pressure from Verstappen's army of fans proved too powerful.

F1 bosses will also be crossing their fingers it doesn't rain after the farcical scenes at Spa in Belgium last weekend. Verstappen was declared the winner and received half points despite only two laps being possible behind the safety car.

The outcry has been so loud that almost everyone in F1 accepts the same situation can never be allowed to happen again, but the rules can only change after an F1 Commission meeting on October 5.

Luckily the weather forecast is set fair and Verstappen will hope to conventionally take over at the top of the standings from defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, with the gap now at just three points.

Given none of the drivers have raced the F1 circuit at Zandvoort, with the last grand prix there in 1985, no one is quite sure what to expect.

That could lead to some exciting racing, especially with the shorter- than-normal-track having two unusually steep corners, plus the risk of sand blowing onto the circuit from the dunes.

If Hamilton was miffed by what happened at Spa, it was nothing compared to how Verstappen fans felt when the British seven-times champion knocked the Dutchman out of the race at Silverstone in July en route to victory. Verstappen ended up in hospital after the crash.

Zandvoort track director Jan Lammers hopes the Verstappen fans do not go overboard with their support.

"We must not get into hooligan situations like in football," Lammers said. "Of course, everyone has their preferences, but let's do it in a civilised way, surprising Hamilton with our sportsmanship and hospitality."

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