(GMM) One of the secrets of Max Verstappen’s dominant success is that he learned at a very early age to “destroy” his teammates.
That is the claim of Graham Watson, who worked closely with the now triple world champion in Verstappen’s rookie F1 campaign at Toro Rosso.
“Jos (Verstappen) imprinted on Max that the first thing you have to do is destroy your teammate,” Watson, now head of race operations at Formula 1, told the Dutch magazine Formule 1.
Watson has a unique view of Max’s focus on F1, given that he also worked closely with his father Jos – at the Honda project in the late 90s.
“I got to know Jos quite well at Honda,” he says. “And what I think Max definitely got from his father is that, as a driver, you get whatever you need. Because you usually only get one chance.”
Watson thinks Max’s father Jos learned that lesson the hard way early in his own F1 career at Benetton, when he was teammate to Michael Schumacher.
“I think that Jos felt that Michael had better material and was favored,” he said. “I had the impression that Jos had difficulties accepting that because he was also a very gifted driver.
“Flavio (Briatore) had a strong bond with Michael, both sporting-wise and personal, which is why I think Jos imprinted on Max very early on that the first thing that you have to do is destroy his teammate. And we’ve seen him do that in recent years.
“It has to be your team – you have to be the man around whom it revolves. I’m convinced that we see this with Max: first beat your teammate, then win that title.”
Verstappen’s first F1 teammate at Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz, ultimately went on to race for Ferrari. But Watson says it was immediately obvious that it would be Max, not the Spaniard, who would be “top dog from the first moment”.
And now, Watson thinks, Verstappen stands out even when compared to seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“Lewis is very talented,” says the New Zealander, “but he is involved in so many things that people wonder ‘Is he a Formula 1 driver or not?’ Lewis Hamilton is a brand, Max Verstappen is a F1 driver.
“I’m not saying that what Hamilton is doing is wrong, but he’s not the nerd like Max. When guys like that are not in the car, they’re in the simulator or in a kart. They’re always trying to improve themselves.”