AlphaTauri team manager Graham Watson believes Max Verstappen “single-handedly saved Formula 1”, with him comparing the Dutchman to seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher.
Verstappen has undoubtedly taken F1 by storm since making his debut in Free Practice 1 at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix for AlphaTauri –they were known as Toro Rosso at the time – before being given a full-time seat by the Red Bull sister team for 2015.
His aggressive driving style at just 17 years old in his rookie season took the F1 world by storm, with him having since gone onto become recognised as one of the greatest drivers of all-time.
At just 26 years old, Verstappen is already a three-time World Champion and a 54-time race winner, whilst he’s destroyed the majority of records that exist in the pinnacle of motorsport.
He was ultimately responsible for ending Mercedes’ and Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in 2021, regardless of how controversial the season finale was.
Many believe that he has the talent and enough years in F1 ahead of him to possibly eclipse Hamilton’s records for most pole positions and most victories, and possibly even become the first driver to claim eight Drivers’ Championship.
His fanbase in his home nation in particular is extraordinary, with the Dutch Grand Prix having become more like a festival in Zandvoort.
The same can be said for the Austrian Grand Prix, which is, of course, Red Bull’s home race.
Watson believes it’s similar to what the German Grand Prix used to be like for Schumacher, where the grandstands were full of German and Ferrari flags.
In fact, Watson admits that he “compared” Verstappen’s 2016 switch from Toro Rosso to Red Bull to when Schumacher moved from Benetton to Ferrari in 1996.
He ultimately believes that the reigning World Champion is the “best thing” to have happened to the sport.
“Max is the best thing that has happened to Formula 1,” Watson told Verstappen.com, via Formule1.
“When Max went from us to Red Bull, I compared it to Michael Schumacher’s move to Ferrari. He made Formula 1 immensely popular at the time. Just look at the old images of Hockenheim and Spa: the stands were full with Schumacher flags.
“I think Max single-handedly saved Formula 1. Because he brings the same intensity and generates interest,” he continued.
“People come en masse to Austria, Spa, actually everywhere for him. I didn’t even see that back in Schumacher’s time. My wife is 60 years old, but a big fan of Max. Because of his style, because of the excitement he creates on track.”