Formula One: Verstappen inspired by 'orange army'

 Verstappen celebrates after placing fifth in the qualifying session for the Belgian grand prix.
Verstappen celebrates after placing fifth in the qualifying session for the Belgian grand prix.PHOTO: AFP

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AFP) - Dutchman Max Verstappen thrilled his vast 'orange army' on Saturday (Aug 26) by qualifying fifth for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The 19-year-old Red Bull driver was pleased with his efforts and insisted he could challenge the Mercedes of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton in Sunday's race.

"It will be difficult to beat them," he told reporters.

"But I think we can be closer so perhaps a good result is possible.

"Our strength is in sector two so we will work even harder there to improve, but in general the balance of the car was great.

"You need a bit of luck as well and anything can happen on this track."

Verstappen added that he was motivated by the masses of Dutch fans, estimated at more than 60,000, in the big crowd under the trees at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

"I could see the orange crowd and smoke from all the fans. It's a good motivation because next to the track is all orange," he said.

"It's amazing to see it!"