AlphaTauri team manager Graham Watson reflected on the influences of both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz’s fathers in their respective 2015 rookies campaigns, though did not feel it spilled over into a “rivalry”.
Red Bull’s junior F1 team, then known as Toro Rosso, unveiled an all-rookie line-up for 2015, consisting of Sainz and their 17-year-old hot prospect Verstappen.
At that time, Watson explained that both ex-F1 racer Jos Verstappen and multi-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz Snr were heavily involved in their son’s respective fledgling Formula 1 careers, Watson revealing that some people in the team had a “very hard time” dealing with Jos’ “very direct” demeanour.
Toro Rosso did not stage Jos Verstappen vs Carlos Sainz Snr rivalry
That being said, Watson, who joined the team in 2014, does not believe the fatherly influence spilled over into a “rivalry” between the two camps.
“Jos was very involved in Max’s career back in 2015, and even so when Max moved to Red Bull the following year,” said Watson in an interview for Max Verstappen’s website.
“That sometimes made things a bit difficult internally, but I didn’t have many problems with it. Why wouldn’t you want guys like Max on your team?
“I think there were people in our team that did have a hard time with that. Jos is very direct, it’s black or white. He wanted to ensure that Max would not be disadvantaged in any way, and he always stood up for his son’s interests. Fine, after all it’s his 17-year old son, and not a grown-up man.
“On the other side, Carlos Sainz’ father, a driven and successful rally champion, did the same. Was there any 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.
“Carlos is talented as well, I see similarities between the two. But I think Max has a little more natural speed. Jos was fast and had no fear, but missed that one little thing that gives you an advantage over your team-mate. Max didn’t.”
Said one little thing was the mindset to “destroy” his team-mate and get everything in place at the team that you need, a mentality which Watson said was imprinted on Max by his father.
And on the track, a young Max and Carlos also were no strangers to a bit of needle, including Verstappen ignoring team orders to let Sainz through in Singapore, though Watson “respected” that refusal, taking it is a clear sign of the World Champion mentality in their young star-in-the-making.
“That confirmed what I had already expected,” said Watson of that Verstappen team order snub. “Look, if there is an opening, he’ll go for it. Everybody knows that by now.
“I respected his refusal in Singapore, because Max proved that he will not just step aside. ‘I’m going to become World Champion and you’re telling me that I have to step aside? Forget it.’ In the end it didn’t matter for that race, but his ‘no’ said everything about him.”
Verstappen has since gone on to deliver on the potential and then some, establishing himself as a three-time World Champion and the dominant force of Formula 1.