How Arizona Cardinals star JJ Watt became an F1 superfan

October 18, 2021

TEMPE, Ariz. – During the summer, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt gave to his older brother, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman JJ Watt, a Netflix recommendation.

TJ had seen ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ with a friend and suggested it to JJ, who happened to know F1 because he once went to Monaco, which is home to the famous Monaco Grand Prix. So, JJ fired up the series, joining the other 50 million in 2021 who watched the show, according to Business Insider.

What happened over the next week made Watt more than just a casual F1 fan. Much more.

“I’m deep,” Watt told ESPN. “I’m very into it. I love it.”

How deep was the three-time NFL defensive player of the year who drives a Ford F150 and has no interest in, as he put it, “luxury cars”?

As the F1 crowd would say, buckle up.

“Now I know more about an F1 car and about a Christian Horner or a Toto Wolff steer,” Watt began. “I know it’s pretty wild that Alex Albon got the Williams seat [for 2022], when it’s a Mercedes engine in the car but [Red Bull boss] Christian Horner is here saying ‘I want Alex Albon in F1’. It has four seats and cannot give you one of them.

“It’s quite interesting and I’m in the background. It’s kind of fascinating and obviously Toto wants Nyck de Vries to have a seat. Now, he doesn’t have a seat. Maybe you could settle for an Alfa Romeo seat but it looks like he’s going to go. to Hulkenberg “.

Watt said it is about “1,000 percent” deeper than he expected.

It took him a week to get through the show’s three seasons, and he said the behind-the-scenes look at one of the most private sports on the planet was “captivating.” Then on July 26, the day before the Cardinals showed up for training camp, Watt revealed his passion and obsession for F1 with a tweet.

It quickly took off, resonating with those who watched the show and found themselves watching more, or any, Formula 1 than in the past. It has more than 40,000 likes, but among the 2,200 responses there was one that caught Watt’s attention.

Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton’s team and winners of the last seven world championships, invited Watt to their garage.

“I’m not saying my loyalty can be bought, but it would be great to be in Lewis’s garage and see how it all works,” Watt said with a smile.

Even NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski tweeted Watt, saying he was glad Watt enjoyed motorsport.

And the official Formula 1 account responded, to which Watt responded with a look at his new experience.

Watt’s tweet was noticed on the F1 circuit.

Daniel Ricciardo, who drives for McLaren, saw Watt’s post. He also heard from his agent at CAA, where Watt’s agent is also located, that Watt was becoming an F1 fan.

“JJ is obviously a great name, a great star, so it’s great to get that,” said Ricciardo, who is a huge Buffalo Bills fan.

“I think we keep American sports pretty high. I think America does sports very well and you have your big stars in MLB, NBA, NFL, so one of them showing interest and tweeting about us is great so no we certainly appreciate it. “

Ricciardo, who has played ball with Tom Brady Cruising yachts in Monaco and meeting UFC Hall of Famer George St. Pierre, he liked seeing the new and growing interest in the sport thanks to “Drive to Survive,” especially when that attention comes from other athletes.

“I love that people get involved,” he said. “Obviously it’s a sport that I’ve been in love with all my life, so let’s say attract more interest and, I mean, new fans, but especially other athletes to appreciate what we do and respect what we do, that’s cool cool.

“I’m a sports fan. I love other sports, so it’s great that we now have that exposure and interest from others.”

Watt isn’t the only NFL player to make his way into F1 lately.

During training camp, he brought up his fondness for F1 to fellow defensive lineman Zach Allen and former Cardinals lineman Margus Hunt. It turned out that Hunt, who is from Estonia, was a huge Formula 1 fan to the point of not only knowing intricate details about the floorboards and engine exhaust systems, but also having an F1 car simulator at home. . Allen, however, was more like Watt, simply stepping into it from the show. They still have a group talk about F1 and each week, for qualifying, they choose four drivers. The way they qualify for the career establishes a recruiting order and then the three NFL players re-recruit for the actual career.

It has become its own fantasy F1 league.

Watt has never been in a race. The annual American stop on the international circuit, now in Austin, has been during soccer season, ruling out a visit to the Circuit of the Americas. But Watt hopes to go to the new Miami race that was added to the Formula 1 calendar for the first week of May.

Ideally, however, you want to go on an international career.

For now, Watt makes sure to watch as many races as he can, which has been a bit more difficult since moving to Arizona from the Central Time Zone, as most races start on Sundays between 5-7 a.m. in Arizona. Watt’s body is conditioned to wake up between 5 a.m. and 5:15 a.m., so he has been awake most of the time, but generally cannot see practices because they start in the wee hours of the morning in the States. United.

Watt’s consumption in F1 has recently been discontinued due to the NFL season.

“I won’t watch the races unless I’m awake and hanging out,” Watt said. “But no, otherwise, on Sundays I won’t be able to see them, but you never know, maybe calm down on game day.”

Ricciardo laughed at the idea, but didn’t totally dismiss Watt.

“Well actually, I mean, some races can be a little boring, so maybe,” Ricciardo said with a wide smile. “Maybe. I mean, it’s a roll of the dice … some can be intense and nail-biting and some can be a bit processional. So, I mean, maybe.

“Whatever works for JJ, I’m not going to argue with him. He’s a little bit older than me. So I’m not going to step on his toes.”

Cars have never been Watt’s thing, but car racing drama? That is a completely different question.

“I’m talking more about rivalries, teams, relationships, fights and battles,” Watt said.

“Like now, I worry, ‘Is Haas ever going to score a point in the history of his show?’ [Haas team principal] Gunther Steiner is one of my favorite characters on the planet. I just know her head explodes every time [Nikita] Mazepin goes off the road. “

Watt is deep, actually.