Ex-AlphaTauri Team Manager Graham Watson believes that Max Verstappen “single-handedly saved Formula 1” through the interest he generated.
Verstappen made his F1 debut in 2015 with Toro Rosso and soon made the move to Red Bull, where he has since won three World Championships.
The Dutchman has claimed several F1 records during his time with the Milton Keynes-based squad and currently trails only Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher for all-time wins.
During Schumacher's period of success with Ferrari, the German's following saw grandstands full at various European events.
Watson, who worked with Verstappen during his rookie F1 season, stated that the Dutchman has had a similar impact during his years in the sport.
“Max is the best thing that has happened to Formula 1,” he said in an interview with Formule 1 Magazine.
“When Max went from us to Red Bull, I compared it to Michael Schumacher going to Ferrari. He made Formula 1 immensely popular at the time.
“Just look at the old images of Hockenheim and Spa: full stands with Schumacher flags. I think Max single-handedly saved Formula 1.
“Because he brings the same intensity and generates interest. People come en masse to Austria, Spa: actually everywhere for him.
“I didn't see that even in Schumacher's time. My wife is 60 years old, but a big fan of Max. Because of his style, because he creates excitement on the court. Max brings a whole new audience to Formula 1.”
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Comparison to Hamilton
Verstappen's maiden title came in 2021 when he prevailed following an intense season-long battle with Mercedes' Hamilton.
The seven-time World Champion is also seen as one of the sport's most recognisable figures, but for different reasons, according to Watson.
“Lewis Hamilton is very talented, but is involved in so many things that people wonder: is he a Formula 1 driver or not?
“He's associated with so many other things. Lewis Hamilton is a brand, Max Verstappen is a Formula 1 driver. And that won't change either.
“I'm not saying what Hamilton is doing is wrong, but he's not the nerd like Max. When guys like that aren't in the car, they're in the simulator or the kart. They are always working to improve.”