Bus-ted: F1 fans desperate to follow hero Max Verstappen FINED after police catch their bus in woods near Belgian GP circuit
Police discovered a bus carrying supporters of Dutch hero Max Verstappen as they attempted to cheer on the Formula One star at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, handing out heavy fines before turning the fans back.
The group of motorsport lovers had travelled from the Netherlands to watch the title contender take part in the Grand Prix, where he finished third in qualifying behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas ahead of Sunday's race.
After being caught in woodlands near the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the fans were each ordered to pay €350 (around $408) and turn back from their destination, which has banned fans as part of health precautions around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of fans usually flock to the circuit to back the hugely popular Red Bull Racing-Honda speedster, watching him fail to finish last year on his way to a third-placed finish in the Driver Standings.
As well as having millions of followers on social media, Verstappen is known for the enthusiastic backing he receives from his online fan club.
Supporters on his Facebook fan group, where the 32-year-old has almost 200,000 followers, reacted enthusiastically in midweek when Formula One bosses announced that they were looking into inviting fans back to races.
"We are allowed back in," administrators announced, sharing the story that included a photo of a mass of Verstappen's fans in the Dutch color of orange.
The news received a mixed reaction from members who held differing views over the danger still posed by the coronavirus in Europe.
"If people don't catch anything at demonstrations in Amsterdam, you won't catch anything in the stands," claimed one optimist.
Others said that they would prefer to stay at home and watch Verstappen on television while the pandemic was still a threat, warning that the idea was unlikely to come to fruition anytime soon.
"It's not going to happen, believe me," said one, while another declared: "Only if you're vaccinated, for sure."
Russia and Portugal are among the Grand Prix events working on returning thousands of fans to their circuits.
"We can confirm that a number of races in the 2020 modified season will be open to a limited number of fans," confirmed the Formula One Group.
"We are working with every promoter to finalize the details."