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Why does Belgian-born Max Verstappen race in F1 under the Dutch flag?

Why does Belgian-born Max Verstappen race in F1 under the Dutch flag?

F1 News

Why does Belgian-born Max Verstappen race in F1 under the Dutch flag?

Why does Belgian-born Max Verstappen race in F1 under the Dutch flag?

Max Verstappen has raced proudly under the Dutch flag for many years but a lesser-known fact about the current F1 world champion is that he was actually born in neighbouring Belgium.

More specifically, he was born in Hasselt, a city with almost 80,000 inhabitants just across the border from Limburg on September 30, 1997.

Of course, Verstappen is the son of former Dutch F1 driver Jos Verstappen, but his mother, Sophie Kumpen, is also a successful and talented racing driver and is Belgian.

So although it was probably predetermined that young Max would have the necessary talent to be a top racing driver, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that he'd race as a Dutchman.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Verstappen setup quirk which allows Red Bull to make car even faster

F1 champion used to race under the Belgian flag

He began to show his racing talent from the age of seven, when he got into a kart for the first time - starting his career behind the wheel at Karting Genk in Belgium. Almost immediately, young Max won the title in the mini class and then went on to win several other titles in the colours of the Netherlands' souther neighbours. It was clear that the Belgian Verstappen was, at the very least, a reasonable car racer.

Young Max Verstappen wins a kart race in 2010

Fast forward to 2015, where a young Verstappen makes his debut in Formula 1 as a seventeen-year-old boy. He did so as a Dutchman, but there was still quite a bit of controversy surrounding his nationality.

Kumpen's mother indicated at the time that Verstappen only had a Belgian identity card and with that he would also have registered in Formula 1 under the leadership of his mother. After gaining his first points during the Malaysian Grand Prix, his mother also indicated once again that Verstappen was wrongly characterised as a Dutchman and that he earned his points as a Belgian.

READ MORE: Jos Verstappen: His life in F1 and how he drove Max to greatness

Jos' response to controversy over Max's nationality

Later that year, his father Jos also became involved in the ongoing discussion surrounding his nationality.

Writing in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, he directly addressed the situation.

Verstappen opined: "Everyone wants a piece of Max at the moment. On the one hand, that is a nice compliment for him. He is doing very well, in the car, but also outside it. He comes across well, has a fresh head and remains himself. So I I understand that many people are proud. Of course I am too. But I do have difficulty with it on some points," he admitted honestly.

A very young ax Verstappen with his father Jos

"So Max is suddenly a Belgian in the eyes of some Belgian media. I think that's a bit weak. We have been racing for years, but until a few months ago there was little or no writing about him in Belgium and now they claim suddenly that he is theirs. I definitely don't see it that way," the Dutchman said at the time.

Both Verstappens pictured a few years ago

For Verstappen Sr., it was loud and clear: Max will race under the red, white and blue of the Netherlands.

He continued: "The situation is that Max has both nationalities, because me and Sophie were married at the time he was born. But since he races under a Dutch licence, he is a little more Dutch than Belgian.

"That's how he feels. If the Netherlands Belgium has to play football, he is supporting the Dutch national team and when he is eighteen and has to choose, it will be for Dutch nationality."

Max makes his choice

And that's how it happened.

Later that year, at the age of eighteen, Verstappen was given the opportunity to decide under which flag he wanted to run his Formula 1 races. There was no doubt for the now three-time world champion: he wanted to achieve his victories under the Dutch flag.

Verstappen, who grew up largely in Maaseik on the Dutch border, also voiced his opinion at the time.

"I actually only lived in Belgium to sleep, but during the day I went to the Netherlands and I also had my friends there. I was raised as a Dutchman and that's how I feel," he said.

A young Max Verstappen pictured in Malaysia

So, in the end it proved that Verstappen chose based on his feelings for the Dutch flag and that choice has done him no harm in his further career.

The 26-year-old driver has created a fervour for motor racing in the Netherlands among the fanatical Dutch supporters and the Orange Army can be spotted following and supporting him in stands all over the world.

With the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort now back on the calendar, there can be no doubt that his choice has resonated, and his country very much has a Dutchman to be proud of.

READ MORE: Unstoppable Verstappen is a MAJOR PROBLEM for F1

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