Graham Watson, Max Verstappen‘s team manager during his first season in Formula 1 and Franz Tost’s right-hand man at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri, has witnessed the Dutchman’s growth into the ‘killer’ he is today at Red Bull.
Max Verstappen, often seen as an ‘aggressive’ driver in his early career, is confirmed to be so by Watson – but only behind the wheel.
“Max is a nice guy, but not on the track.”
“We know he is aggressive. As a driver, of course. Not as a person. Max knows exactly what he wants: not to be second. When he started working with us, he was still a child. But what he showed even at that age… Wow, very impressive.”
“In 2015, Max did his first test with the car at Jerez. I was talking to him, and there were photographers everywhere. I then realized what it must be like to have cameras constantly on you. I asked Max: You’re 17 and photographers follow you all the time. This is what you’ll face for the rest of your life in F1. He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘That will only happen if I’m good enough.’ That was his answer.”
This aggression, Max Verstappen was also going to show internally at Toro Rosso, to get the upper hand over his teammate Carlos Sainz. From there, some frictions arose…
“Jos is very direct, it’s black or white. He wanted to ensure that Max was in no way disadvantaged and he always defended his son’s interests. On the other hand, Carlos Sainz’s father, a passionate and successful rally champion, did the same.”
Verstappen’s Defiant Rise to Champion
“Was there rivalry between the fathers? If there was, I didn’t see it. They both wanted the best for their sons, which is more than logical.”
At the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, the rivalry between the two Toro Rosso drivers would burst into the open when Max Verstappen refused to obey team orders and let Carlos Sainz pass…
“This confirmed what I had already predicted. If he sees a gap, he’ll seize the opportunity. Everyone knows that now. I respected his refusal in Singapore because Max proved he wouldn’t be pushed around. ‘I’m going to be a world champion and you’re telling me to step aside? Forget that.’ Ultimately, it didn’t matter for that race, but his ‘no’ speaks volumes about him.”
In 2015, Max Verstappen had the chance to start with a Toro Rosso team that was in a good competitive position. But if he had started with a back-of-the-grid team, like Marussia at the time, would he have achieved the same fate?
“If he had started with HRT or Caterham, he would have ended up in the best team and in the best car anyway. Because Max has commitment, self-confidence, and is ruthless: everything needed to become a world champion.”
“After Max’s first victory in Barcelona, one of our engineers said we should be proud, as we had contributed to it. I replied: Are you serious? Are you dreaming? Because if Max had been with us or elsewhere, he would have ended up winning races anyway. It just happened a bit earlier than expected.”
Max Verstappen, the savior of F1?
Watson goes even further, asserting that Max Verstappen single-handedly saved F1! And he takes the opportunity to throw a jab at Lewis Hamilton…
“Max is the best thing that has happened to Formula 1. When Max moved from us to Red Bull, I compared him to Michael Schumacher. He made Formula 1 immensely popular back then. Just look at the old footage from Hockenheim and Spa: the stands were full of Schumacher flags.”
“I think Max single-handedly saved Formula 1. Because he brings the same intensity and generates interest. People flock in masses to Austria, Spa, basically everywhere for him. I didn’t even see that in Schumacher’s time.”
“Max brings an entirely new audience to Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton is very talented, but he’s involved in so many things that people wonder if he’s a Formula 1 driver or not. He’s associated with so many other things. Lewis Hamilton is a brand, Max Verstappen is a Formula 1 driver. And that won’t change.”
“I’m not saying what Hamilton does is wrong, but he’s not the F1 nerd like Max. When guys like him aren’t in the car, they’re in the simulator or in a kart. They’re always trying to improve.”
Max Verstappen F1 Evolution. Max Verstappen F1 Evolution
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