ZANDVOORT, Netherlands, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Stands filled early at the Zandvoort circuit on Sunday as 70,000 Dutch race fans seemed to expect nothing less than victory for local hero Max Verstappen in the first Dutch grand prix in 36 years.
A sea of orange and red-blue-and-white coloured the stands at the seaside track three hours before the race, with fans excited to see Verstappen take on his main rival Lewis Hamilton from pole position.
“It’s great to be able to see Verstappen so close to home”, a fan who made the 30 kilometres (19 miles) trip from his home in Roelofarendsveen largely by bicycle said.
“If he makes it through the first corner, I think he’ll win today. And then he has a real chance at the overall championship.”
Verstappen’s pole position makes him the clear favourite for the race, as the short straights and fast corners on what Hamilton this week described as an “epic” circuit make it extremely difficult to overtake. read more
Zandvoort hosts its first Formula One race since Niki Lauda’s win in 1985, as organisers try to make the most of the enormous popularity of Verstappen, the youngest grand prix winner and the first Dutchman to have a shot at the championship.
The 23-year-old’s meteoric rise, which has drawn tens of thousands of orange-clad fans to races across Europe, helped sell over 300,000 tickets in an instant, even though people had to pay more than 500 euros (around $600) to see three days of racing from the grandstand.
“It’s worth it this time, but it is very expensive”, the man from Roelofarendsveen said.
“The same ticket in Hungary cost less than 100 euros, so I don’t know if I’ll be back again next year.”
($1 = 0.8416 euros)
Reporting by Bart Meijer, editing by Ed Osmond
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