F1 leader Verstappen returns to his Orange Army at the Dutch GP

Formula One leader Max Verstappen's adoring Orange Army cheered him throughout a frustrating Friday at the Dutch Grand Prix.

A gearbox failure limited the world champion to seven laps in the first practice session as an orange crane removed his Red Bull from the Zandvoort track, and he placed only eighth in the second run.

But every time he went past the start-finish line there were huge roars for the 24-year-old Dutchman, who is chasing a fourth straight win.

He has even bigger status back home after being appointed an officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau — a highly ranked merit from the Dutch royal family.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner congratulated him. “We’re not quite sure what to call you, Sir Max, Lord Max, or Super Max?" Horner said.

"You can just call me Max," replied Verstappen on team radio. Minutes later he pulled up and joined Horner in the garage as his gearbox was repaired.

Mercedes driver George Russell led the first session ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, with Verstappen 19th.

Charles Leclerc led the second practice from his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. with Hamilton third.

When he won the Dutch GP last year, Verstappen's fans included Dutch King Willem-Alexander. Now those mere mortals will all greet him as a world 

“I mean, it was already incredible last year," Verstappen said. “Amazing atmosphere, there will be a lot of orange around.”

Even at 330 kilometers per hour (205 mph) with a race helmet on, Verstappen still takes in the Orange horde.

“You see the people in front of you, they are having a bit of a party going on,” he said. "When you drive out as well they are cheering for you.”

Verstappen's army likes setting off flares, though, and thick orange smoke billowing across tracks has been a concern.

“Maybe too many flares at times. It was getting kind of smelly in the car,” Haas driver Mick Schumacher said. “And visibility was getting low."

When Verstappen won here last year, he wrestled back the title lead from Hamilton.

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