The Dutch Grand Prix is bonkers. And it’s not even race day yet.

The Dutch Grand Prix is bonkers. And it’s not even race day yet.

The when does the f1 season start is a question that has been asked in many different ways. There are various answers to this question, but the most accurate answer would be the Dutch Grand Prix is bonkers. And it’s not even race day yet.

ZANDVOORT, the Netherlands (AP) — On Friday, anybody who needed further proof that the Dutch Grand Prix would be raucous received it.

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The Zandvoort audience exploded like a football stadium watching a late winner few minutes into the second practice session, which was almost at full capacity on the day F1 sets aside for two hours of practice. Lewis Hamilton went out with an engine problem, and you didn’t need to be near a TV to figure out why.

It wasn’t even very dramatic. Hamilton’s vehicle had sent Mercedes some concerning data, so he pulled over to the side of the road. Things like this happen all the time in practice, and Hamilton and Mercedes downplayed the significance of the session’s stoppage afterward, despite the fact that it has left the title leader short on track time heading into Saturday’s final practice and qualifying.

But the answer set the tone for the rest of the weekend wonderfully. As the championship adversary of Dutch national hero Max Verstappen, Hamilton is portraying a pantomime villain.

In second practice, Lewis Hamilton had a vehicle problem. Getty Images/Dan Istitene/Formula 1/Formula 1

Hamilton, who has previously said that being booed “fuels” him, seemed to enjoy the moment.

“The audience is incredible,” Hamilton remarked. “There are so many people here, it’s great to see people pumped up, and this is the first time we’ve seen the full, full energy that the Dutch fans bring, well, not the whole energy yet; we’ll probably see it over the following few days,” says the MC.

But it’s obvious how Hamilton and Verstappen will be received later in the weekend. During the media day on Thursday, Verstappen said it was useless to urge Dutch fans not to boo Hamilton, as they did when he won pole at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this year. In July, Hamilton clashed with Verstappen on way to winning the British Grand Prix, turning a heated rivalry into a nuclear one.

Verstappen, 23, is the reason Formula One returned to this track in the first place. The youngest driver to start and win an F1 race, Zandvoort’s meteoric ascent from green rookie in 2015 to one of the sport’s best talents made his comeback a question of when, not if.

At Zandvoort, title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go wheel to wheel around Turn 3. AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/Getty Images)

The location of Zandvoort is ideal for the next chapter in the Hamilton-Verstappen rivalry. The tiny, beautiful coastal town, which is bordered by dunes, has a population of only 17,000 people, yet 70,000 people are expected to attend each of the three days the race is held. That number would have been 105,000 each day if the pandemic hadn’t compelled race organizers to cut down the event — COVID-19 had already caused this race to miss its 2020 comeback date.

Zandvoort should be a logistical nightmare. There is just one rail route into town from Amsterdam, and parking is scarce. Every hour, twelve trains run between the capital and the racetrack, dropping off spectators 20 minutes away.

For years, environmental worries and protests have lurked in the background, but none have succeeded in putting a stop to the event. They have, at the very least, pushed the event’s organizers to prohibit virtually all vehicles from the event, with 27,000 spectators taking advantage of the more regular rail service and many more cycling in from the surrounding region.

All of this contributed to the welcoming mood. Thousands of people were heading towards the circuit, making it seem like a music festival. You might hear F1’s theme music, a song called ‘Max, Max, Super Max,’ which has become something of a hymn for Verstappen supporters, or simply a repeating baseline lingering in the background on that stroll.

You won’t have to search hard to find Verstappen stuff that is expensive. Hats, flags, cups, and glasses are all over the place. Orange capes are even being given out for free to anybody who wants to wear one.

But the adoration isn’t just for Verstappen. A Hamilton fan from the United Kingdom spent £1,600 to fly an aircraft over Zandvoort’s track and beach with the slogan “7 x WDC!” on Friday. Simply stunning! #TeamLH’.

During Friday practice, Max Verstappen passes crowded grandstands on the pit straight. Getty Images/Hasan Bratic/picture alliance

While vehicles raced around the track below, the aircraft made numerous loops about the area.

Friday is usually the least exciting day of an F1 weekend, so Saturday and Sunday should be fantastic.

The circuit is then added to the mix. The modified layout is unlike any other race on the schedule since it has two banked turns at the start and finish of the lap, similar to those seen on an oval.

During Friday practice, Charles Leclerc recorded the quickest time. Getty Images/Clive Rose/Formula 1/Formula 1

It’s one of the big unknowns heading into the race weekend. The various routes drivers may take through those two turns, essentially giving them the choice to go low or high, are intended to liven up racing on what otherwise seems to be a track too small to allow for many passing chances.

Given that both Hamilton and Verstappen have said that they would not back down in any further wheel-to-wheel battles this season, the scene seems to be set for another exciting showdown between the season’s two main characters.

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