Toro Rosso’s Team Manager Graham Watson has an interesting motorsport career: moving to Formula 1 from rally and F3000, ranging from being a mechanic, an engineering liaison to a Team Manager, working for such Formula 1 teams as Brawn, Lotus, B.A.R Honda, Benetton, and obviously Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2014. We asked Graham several questions about the way he operates, the 2018 calendar and whom he would choose as his fantasy team’s manager.
How has joining Toro Rosso changed the way you personally work, compared to Brawn or Lotus?
In fact, the biggest difference was probably having to move to a new country with a culture that wasn’t so familiar to me, and then learning how to work with a team that was essentially made up of Italians. I had to understand how they do things so I could push the right buttons as a Team Manager, also I needed to adapt my way or working in order to achieve the right balance within the team.
What changes in Formula 1 were the most significant to you?
I’ve been in the sport for 23 years, maybe 24, and back then the biggest changes were the curfew and the parc ferme rules, which came in when I was a mechanic, in my early days. Before then, there were no time limits or restrictions on how or where we could work, so there were loads of late nights; actually, every night was a late night. Understandably, these changes required a lot of attention and rethinking, but they were also good for keeping the people of Formula 1 alive and ensuring the longevity of their careers.
We still have to see what Liberty will bring to the table in 2021, but so far, it all looks positive.
What’s your take on how Liberty Media is doing after the takeover?
Clearly, they’ve got a different agenda than Bernie Ecclestone. I don’t think anyone can disregard what Bernie did for the sport, introducing Formula 1 to the world in a revolutionary way and making it the most professional sport anyone has ever seen. I think most sports aspire to be like Formula 1 and they create strategies just to achieve that, while Liberty Media is moving in a new direction now and I can say that they’re doing a really good job. We still have to see what Liberty will bring to the table in 2021, but so far, it all looks positive – they want to take Formula 1 to the fans, make it more appealing, more interesting, open, friendlier and I’d easily give them a 7 out of 10 at the moment.
Are you happy with the calendar of 2018 and would you change something in 2019 if you had the chance?
It appears we’re now at the saturation point in terms of the 2018 calendar, because not only do Formula 1 teams have to prepare for 21 races, we also have to do the pre-season testing, the in-season testing, Pirelli tyre test and then, at the end of the season, another Pirelli tyre test. This has really made life difficult for everybody, especially the triple-header races: having two Grands Prix back-to-back is already a huge challenge, and having three races on three weekends in a row is asking a bit too much from the human beings. We at Toro Rosso even have an additional tyre test planned. So if it was up to me, I’d probably lose the triple-headers, leave a back-to-back Grands Prix maximum, and finally try to push the FIA to get rid of any in-season testing.
Whom would you pick as your fantasy Formula 1 team’s manager?
I would like to have someone like Richie McCaw. He’s the former captain of New Zealand’s national All Blacks rugby team. As a sports captain, he’s phenomenal, able to organise people to get the absolute best out of everybody – they’ve won close to 97% matches that he played in. I think Richie would be a great Team Manager, and I’d like to see how his talent would translate from rugby to Formula 1.