Jos Verstappen, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2023

Schumacher experience taught Verstappen to ‘destroy your team mate’ – Watson

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In the round-up: Max Verstappen’s team manager from his first season in Formula 1 believes his father’s experience as team mate to Michael Schumacher shaped the future world champion’s upbringing.

In brief

Watson sees Schumacher’s influence on Verstappens

Graham Watson, who was the team manager at Toro Rosso in 2015 when Verstappen made his grand prix debut, offered some insight into how his father’s F1 career may have influenced him. Jos Verstappen made his F1 debut 21 years earlier at Benetton alongside Michael Schumacher, as a substitute for the injured JJ Lehto, and was usually well off the pace of the team leader.

“I think that Jos felt that Michael Schumacher had better material and was favoured,” Watson told Dutch magazine Formule 1. “I had the impression that Jos had difficulties accepting that, because he also was a very gifted driver.”

Graham Watson, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015
Watson worked with Verstappen at Toro Rosso in 2015
Watson believes Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore gave Schumacher preferential treatment, and the elder Verstappen decided his son needed to learn the value of being his team’s top priority.

“Flavio had a strong bond with Michael, both sporting-wise and personal. That’s why I think Jos imprinted on Max very early on, that the first thing that you have to do is destroy his team mates. And we have seen that in recent years.

“It has to be your team, you have to be the man around whom it revolves. I’m convinced that you now also see this with Max: first beat your team mate, then win the title.

“To this day, I don’t think that Jos got a fair treatment at Benetton. And that has partly ensured that Max understands that aspect of the sport very well: he does not need better equipment, he wants the same equipment, Talent will do the rest.”

Madrid GP rumours intensify

Plans to move the Spanish Grand Prix to a street circuit in the capital Madrid could be announced next week, multiple Spanish publications indicated yesterday. Rumours a circuit based on the roads around the Ifema facility, which hosted the inaugural F1 Exhibition last year, have circulated for months.

If the new deal does go ahead it would spell the end for the Circuit de Catalunya on the F1 calendar. It held its first race in 1991 and its current contract expires in 2026.

Pin becomes Mercedes junior

Mercedes has hired 20-year-old French sportscar race Doriane Pin to join its young driver academy. Pin will carry the team’s colours in F1 Academy driving for Prema.

Last year Pin raced in the World Endurance Championship and IMSA series, and finished runner-up to champion Jack Beeton in the Formula 4 South East Asia championship. She lies 10th in the F4 United Arab Emirates championship after last weekend’s season-opening triple-header.

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On this day in motorsport

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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43 comments on “Schumacher experience taught Verstappen to ‘destroy your team mate’ – Watson”

  1. Watson sees Schumacher’s influence on Verstappens

    Made me laugh…
    “Schumacher had obvious number 1 status against Jos, but we at Red Bull 20+ years later would never even consider giving one driver any form of priority over the other… Never ever….I promise.”

    A convenient use of the words ‘better equipment’ rather than ‘favoured chassis/aero development and tuning.’
    It might well be the same equipment – it’s just that its being tailored more for one driver than the other.
    That’s still priority treatment.

    1. So if you were a designer you would make a slower car to suit your slower, less skilled driver? Ok.

  2. Coventry Climax
    17th January 2024, 1:29

    Despite the confirmation Jos Verstappen didn’t get to race equal material to Schumacher, he also didn’t always make the most of what he did get. Spinning out of the pit exit in an attempt to stay ahead of Frentzen comes to mind, for example, as unnecessary errors that eventually killed his career.

    Madrid? Please don’t. Besides not waiting for yet another street track, according to wikipedia it was rated second most sustainable racetrack in ’21. Not sure how much of a diffrence it makes, but by the sound of it, F1’s shooting themselves in the foot there, regarding their ‘green’ aspirations?

    French Doriane Pin to Mercedes.
    Abbey Pulling for Alpine, unknown teammate as yet. Maybe Alpine would have liked a french driver and missed an opportunity yet again?

    James Allison not sure of whether they changed the wind-tunnel weighting system or their way of meshing in CFD?
    Apart from that, shouldn’t that have already happened before last season, right after the zero sidepod concept proved to be a mistake?

    Ocon to Audi? My, if that’s true, they aren’t aiming very high.

    What a terrific story about Alex Waters. And what a sad reminder of Perez’ ‘capabilities’.

    The rest of the ‘articles’ I mostly can’t read, as usual, apart from the odd photo, as I do not (and don’t want to) have Twitter and such accounts.

    1. The long-time street circuit trend should indeed help with the long-term green aspirations as people will be closer, so less commuting.

    2. Coventry Climax, Graham Watson’s statements don’t really prove that Jos received unequal equipment when at Benetton.

      As far as I can tell, Graham Watson never worked with either Jos or Michael, and whilst he did start working at Benetton, he didn’t join that team until 1996 (i.e. two years after Jos left Benetton). There seems to be no evidence that Watson would have any knowledge of how either driver would have been treated at the time – he’s giving an opinion that seems to be based on nothing more than his own emotions.

      1. As far as I can tell it is very normal in companies/teams/etc to talk about the past, what they did, what worked, what didn’t and what else happened. There seems to be no evidence that you have any knowledge of what Watson knows or doesn’t know; those are merely beliefs packed in some nice words.

        PS Watson doesn’t claim that Verstappen received ‘unequal equipment’. He does say though that Jos felt that Michael had better equipment.
        The uneven treatment (not material) is what Watson refers to. But we see that in almost all teams where one driver gets some preferential treatment (often called the #1), and mostly accepted as he is the more successful or talented one.

    3. There is no confirmation of anything here, just a coping mechanism of Verstappen senior, who even in other teams never showed anything special. But maybe it was an F1-wide conspiracy against him… who knows.

      In fact, Briatore caused a big upset at Benetton when he ordered the cars to be switched to stop exactly this line of complaining from an underperforming driver. Schumacher still dominated. He describes the whole affair at length and detail in his appearance on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

    4. Coventry Climax
      17th January 2024, 15:31

      Yep, the word ‘confirmation’ should have been between quotes, my bad.

      But how you guys jump onto it! Even while I clearly state Jos wasn’t doing that great a job anyways.
      And I certainly didn’t mention any conspiracies – talking about interpretation of what’s written.

      1. Unfortunately the ‘no equal treatment’ is one of F1’s most classic conspiracies.

        Things like “I think that Jos felt that Michael Schumacher had better material and was favoured” and “I don’t think that Jos got a fair treatment at Benetton” are essentially just whines, with nothing substantial to back it up. The idea that a team is going to waste one of its only two (or four, in Red Bull’s special case) cars on someone they don’t care to treat “fairly” is just silly. They’re not going to hire hundreds of people in the factory, ship everything across the globe a dozen times a year just to then not give one of their cars the best possible support and equipment. If Benetton didn’t care for Verstappen, there was no need to treat him badly, they could just drop him – which they did after just 10 races. Because he didn’t perform. Which he continued not to do for years.

        It does of course happen that teams give their drivers slightly different cars. But this is merely a practical issue; especially with the current crowded calendar it’s not always possible to have two full sets and spares ready to go. These instances are pretty much always known because there are a lot of people watching the upgrades team bring to races. All the more so now that many parts have to be approved by the FIA or otherwise declared to them. This happened a few times with McLaren last season, where Piastri was not given the latest parts because there weren’t any available yet.

        1. Coventry Climax
          17th January 2024, 23:04

          And I certainly didn’t mention any conspiracies

          To which you reply as if I suggest and believe a conspiracy. Great.

          What does happen though, is that new developped parts are tried on one car first, or are brought to the car in such haste that there wasn’t any time to create a second example of it for the other car. Also, engineering teams can’t always be exactly equally good. It’s up to the teams how they deal with that, but to them, their decisions make sense, nothing conspiracy about it.

  3. I don’t see Schumacher in Verstappen from the outside. Rosberg talked about how Schumacher would dominate the team, treat his team-mate as though they didn’t exist. Entirely unfriendly, and when Hamilton joined it was even taken up a level.

    Where as I think the modern school of F1 have more camaraderie, and with Ricciardo entering the paddock, bringing all the public-facing jokes and pranks that he has. Being his team-mate has to have rubbed off on Max, because even when they had their tough 2018 moments, there never seemed to be the level of disrespect, even contempt that others had shown to their team-mates.

    You’ve got Norris saying now publicly how he thinks that old mindset is just flat-out wrong and completely unnecessary in modern F1. I don’t think he’d be saying that if Max has relied on that dominating mindset to get where he has.

    It has to be your team, you have to be the man around whom it revolves.

    I still think this is true, but the way to go about it has changed. Intimidation, disrespect and outright hostility are unnecessary and you can spend that energy instead on creating a healthy environment and improving yourself.

    1. i seem to remember Perez having quite a few problems with the Verstappen clan, after those first few successful races.

      and rbr have always been very heavily invested in their #1 driver.

      i think its plausible to say Hamilton was lesd mature during his early days, and more prone protecting himself, to be honest, after Button showed up at Macca, i never saw Hamilton ever really have his way with the team like a MSC or VES. Infact hamilton lost a championship to ROS due to horrendous reliability during races and qualifying.

      and the way VES pushes other drivers off track, not very high brow. hes young though, with everything to prove. but lets be honest, HAM cant hold a candle to MSC when it comes to holding status on a team, and as for Botass, that has a lot to do with who manages him and his personality.

      1. @pcxmax Perez having issues with Verstappen’s ‘retinue’ fits this story, but at the same time doesn’t refute what Tristan writes; personally I’d say that for Hamilton in the early years his father might have had a similar (over?) protective attitude as the article shows for Jos Verstappen, and I am pretty sure Button set out to destabilize Hamilton at McLaren so that he had a chance to fight him (see also how Rosberg talks about fighting against the Schumacher treatment, recall Button also experienced Benetton and no doubt knew how important it could be to have the teams ear first).

        I personally think what Button did was impressive, but wasn’t in the end what he or the team needed, as 2012 showed they went into several blind alleys while Hamilton was still the better bet they didn’t take up that bet, and 2013 and beyond showed they were lost with Button certainly unable to help them develop in a useful way. But in the meanwhile he’d had several quite good years at the team.

        And in a team like Red Bull, that seem eager to choose a light-bearer, like Vettel before Verstappen, and with Verstappen seeming quite self-assured of his capabilities, I don’t know whether he needs to, and does, expend energy on destabilizing his teammate.

        For a team like McLaren, I would certainly agree with Norris that it’s better to work together to get the team ahead, and I’d argue that Russell’s need to assert himself over Hamilton certainly didn’t help Mercedes in their efforts to get the car to a higher level.

        See also how Alonso seemingly decided to praise and work with Lance Stroll because in the end he knows that a good car and team will bring him more than destroying the other (okay, team owner´s son) driver, at this moment. So, if a driver is confident in his abilities and position and sees a longer term future, working with everyone to get better equipment seems to be the smarter choice (interesting change from his earlier years?).

        1. @bosyber This. I don’t think Verstappen has had to exert himself that much given that Red Bull are fine with one dominant driver (as with Vettel). Certainly he does motivate himself to snuff out any challenge from a team mate just because he’s ultra-competitive. Miami 2023 was a prime example but Verstappen continued to leave no space for Pérez to remount any challenge at any point in the season. And was clearly upset when any challenge came from other teams. But aside from maybe the Verstappen clan adding pressure on social media (and maybe behind the scenes) I think Verstappen does his dominating primarily on the track. Far more so than, say, a Schumacher, Prost or Alonso (or Button). That’s pretty commendable, even if that means that sometimes in the past his driving has been questionable. (And to be fair to Max, last season the only really questionable driving came from Pérez when he drove him onto the grass at high speed on one occasion.)

          1. And was clearly upset when any challenge came from other teams

            And when was this challenge and upset? How is it that fans of a certain driver make things like this up?

          2. You’re being triggered over nothing. Verstappen was clearly annoyed when Red Bull weren’t as competitive at Singapore, for example. It’s meant as a positive, even with the title sewn up he still wanted to win everything.

          3. @F1 Fan

            How about Max’s mom accusing Perez of cheating on his wife on social media? Or Jos being furious that Daniel had the nerve to celebrate winning pole in Mexico City?

          4. You say that yet when he doesn’t have enough on track he resorts to trying to drive rivals off the track or slamming the door closed on rivals who are alongside him. I dare say RB’s environment of “the golden boy can do no wrong” will cause something pretty catastrophic to happen sooner or later, especially when he loses the advantage he’s enjoying.

    2. You’ve got Norris saying now publicly how he thinks that old mindset is just flat-out wrong and completely unnecessary in modern F1. I don’t think he’d be saying that if Max has relied on that dominating mindset to get where he has.

      Norris isn’t competing on the level that Schumacher and Hamilton were. If McLaren makes a fantastic 2024 car, Norris will quickly come around to their way of thinking when he realizes Piastri also wants to be champion in what might very well be their once-in-a-lifetime chance.

      Besides, it’s never that black or white. Schumacher might have been super-focussed on his own success, but he also knew how to play the team game, which he did numerous times when he was either out of contention, or already had the big prize wrapped up.

      1. [Schumacher] knew how to play the team game, which he did numerous times when he was either out of contention, or already had the big prize wrapped up.

        I struggle to remember an example of this generosity. He certainly wasn’t eager to play the team game to help Irvine in ending the Ferrari title drought in 1999.

        1. “I struggle to remember an example of this generosity. He certainly wasn’t eager to play the team game to help Irvine in ending the Ferrari title drought in 1999.”

          You mean when he took pole by a second in Malaysia and then went on to gift the win to Irvine and hold up Hakkinen in the process?

          Irvine wasn’t even close to Schumacher’s pace in Japan, yet still people believe Schumacher was holding back. It’s rediculous. Apart from that, every single victory was gifted one way or another to Irvine. Salo and Schumacher gifted him one, McLaren and Schumacher had technical issues in Australia and Coulthard and Hakkinen drove each other of the road in Austria.

          Schumacher mounted titlechallenges in that Ferrari. Irvine needed bad luck and gifts to even win a GP. That’s why he didn’t win a title. Because he was dreadfull in a lot of races. Salo had to drive 3 seconds a lap slower at one point just to get Irvine to P4.

  4. Teams don’t have a preference for nothing. They put all the effort in the driver that’s more capable, more frequent performer. So as romantic as it might be to give both the drivers equal treatment, it’s just not efficient when you could give the guy that could win you the championship a little more attention.

    Because come the end of it if Jo’s was given the same conditions he wouldn’t have won the championship whereas Michael did it twice, proving them right. Same with Michael-Barrichello, Vettel-Webber, Lewis-Bottas, Max-Checo, whoever…

    1. Because come the end of it if Jo’s was given the same conditions he wouldn’t have won the championship whereas Michael did it twice, proving them right. Same with Michael-Barrichello, Vettel-Webber, Lewis-Bottas, Max-Checo, whoever…

      Nobody can ever know that. Those No.2’s weren’t given that preference, and so could never exploit it to get the same results.
      You can think or feel that that may be the case, but you can’t prove it.
      In all of those pairings you mention, the more successful driver was given preference the entire time they were together – of course they had more opportunity to get the better results and make the other appear inferior.
      And often even when the No.2 was ahead, the teams engineer it such that No.1 would end up in front again by the end of the race. Team orders and strategic control are real things that greatly affect what you think you see…

    2. You’re right, but it just makes it all the more frustrating when teams will constantly claim they do. Everybody lies.

      1. Teams don’t claim they put the same amount of effort in both drivers, they merely claim that both get (mostly) the same machinery.
        Both can be true and probably are as it makes sense.

      2. Because people get mad about it, so they twist the truth.

      3. Dr House quote!

    3. There are very few things that are actually ‘driver specific’ in a team. Even with something like a race engineer, one isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s always a matter of how the driver and engineer work together. Peter Bonnington might be a great fit for Hamilton, but that’s no guarantee he’d gel as well with Leclerc.

      Just because a driver like Schumacher, or Hamilton, or Vettel gets better results doesn’t mean the team has orchestrated for it to be that way. They’re just better, smarter, quicker, more adaptable – whatever term one prefers. Pretty much the only point where that really comes into play is in the hiring process; but even if they hire a “Bottas” rather than another “Rosberg”, they’re still going to give that “Bottas” the best support they can because they only have two cars.

  5. Thinking about driver lineups two seasons ahead is pointless at this point, but not the first time I’ve seen Ocon mentioned for Audi & for that matter, the same with Hulkenberg, although I especially doubt about him.

    1. @jerejj I don’t understand why Ocon is being considered for Audi. Surely there are more appropiate drivers for a team building job than him.

      1. Honestly, I thought Audi’s management would be a step up from Sauber’s current management… but if they are lining up Ocon in their driver line up, then they’re clearly clueless about how to build a competitive team for the future.

        1. Yes. It’d be almost as foolish as giving a five-year contract to a driver named Esteban with no other seat options and eventually costing your team both one of F1’s GOATs and F1’s top rookie prospect.

  6. That joke about the “Vegas loop” boosting transit volumes is good. The “system” is a PR joke by tesla and doesn’t offer much in the way of traffic capacity, although I guess when there is hardly any option to travel, going underground will at least offer some ?

  7. Where is Keith’s end of season car performance article?

  8. If first read this:
    “Watson sees Schumacher’s influence on Verstappens”

    …like this:
    “Watson sees Schumachers’ influence on Verstappens”
    And though: Hmm, Ralf didn’t really destroy anybody, did he?

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    17th January 2024, 14:43

    “It has to be your team, you have to be the man around whom it revolves.”

    I totally agree and the clearest case is what happened to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren where it was pretty clear that Button was the team’s “golden boy”. It became so bad that in 2012 instead of Lewis competing for the WDC, Button nearly equaled Lewis’ tally of points and ended up outscoring him at McLaren.

    Once a driver is seen as favored by the team, be it Vettel, Verstappen, Hamilton, it’s near impossible for the other driver to make a comeback. Jos is right in that regard.

    I didn’t like Rosberg but the way he won the championship in 2016 was the template to follow and quite an accomplishment. You need to build a massive lead at the start of the season – assuming you have the ability and car to do that and Rosberg had both, then crash into your teammate to save 14 points (Spain) and then hope for other issues like reliability or just bad luck to help you coast into the championship.

    Champions will come back hard at you as we saw with Lewis in 2016 and 2021.

    1. I’m not sure Nico Rosberg had a ‘way’ to win the championship. I would say he was just nearly as good as Lewis Hamilton, close enough to his level to benefit from Hamilton having bad luck, and in three seasons that they were teammates, he got that once. I agree that the Spain crash was predominantly Rosberg’s fault but it did not save him 14 points; if Hamilton had won and Rosberg second then that is seven points but that was not assured at that point, and Rosberg had won the last four races, and the last race in Spain. Either driver could have won that race. I think Nico Rosberg is a very underappreciated driver, the fact that Lewis Hamilton proved to be so good in the years after but did not seem it during 2013-2016 is testament to just how good Rosberg was.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        17th January 2024, 19:02

        The reason it’s 14 is because if Nico wins he’s +7 points. If Lewis wins, it’s +7 for him. The gap between the 2 outcomes is 14 points.

        So when a driver overtakes another driver, the points are technically doubled in terms of the impact on the drivers. Nico was aware of that which is why he didn’t want to relinquish them and he set the tone for future overtakes as well.

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        18th January 2024, 22:04

        I think that with in hindsight we will start to appreciate the 2016 much more (it will be already 8 years after it; 8 years is a lot, a lot of time). A fight between team mates is the ultimate duel/challenge that F1 can offer, before it delivers three-car teams as it was debated in 1996 (I’m still waiting for it). It’s quite, quite rare. Without going before 1980, we got that in 1986 (door open for a third driver), 1988-89, in 2007 (again, door open), and between 2014-2016. Bottas did not deliver, neither did Perez, of course (nor Webber in 2011 or 2013. 2011, Gosh!!)

        Nico Rosberg lost two title battles for a team mate and was able to recover from that. As far as I remember, only Nico and Prost achieved that (Prost only lost 1988). It’s a very fine testament of Nico’s abilities.

        I missed Rosberg in 2017 and especially in 2019 and 2020, and I’m really sorry that the sport doesn’t get a way of making teams bring two top drivers, either for their interest of for the sport’s interest. The sport should be built differently. And yes, Alonso should be in Red Bull now.

  10. Contrary to the COTD, I do have the time to watch every race. For an F1 fanatic, F1 Sundays have to be sacred. In 26 years of following F1, only death, grievous injury or unavoidable travel have prevented me from watching an F1 race live. Family, friends and anyone else who cares know (and have been informed quite clearly on multiple occasions) that those 3 hours (race + build up + post race show) are DND time. On those rare occasions I have missed a live race, it is on record (at least since we have had recording facilities) and no news is read, watched or heard until that replay has been watched. Can’t say the same about Qualifying and Sprint but they are likewise recorded and watched before the race, come what may.

    May be I have too much time on my hands but I am a lawyer and so I tend to think there are some constraints on my time. F1 is not one of them. It is a priority.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      17th January 2024, 21:11

      @thedoctor03 I could have sworn you were a doctor :-)

      Your dedication is very impressive!

  11. José Lopes da Silva
    17th January 2024, 23:15

    Ibrar Malik pretty much closed this debate about Schumacher vs Verstappen & Lehto. His theory explains and covers basically everything that happened, from Senna’s listening to the Ford engine cutting in Okayama to the dismal performance of the team in Italy and Portugal.

  12. The Driver team mate caricatures mentioned in the article on Alex Waters are here –

    They’re certainly striking…

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