NFL superstar JJ Watt and Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner, the unlikeliest of bromances
But JJ Watt and Guenther Steiner are breaking that mold.
Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt fell in love with Formula One through Netflix’s hit immersive documentary, “Drive to Survive,” and his favorite character was none other than Haas team principal Steiner.
The avuncular 57-year-old became a fan favorite during the show’s documentation of the F1 season, in particular catching the eye of star Arizona Cardinal defensive end Watt.
In March this year, after Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher finished fifth and 11th respectively at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Watt tweeted: “Somebody get Guenther Steiner in front of a camera and inject it into my veins. KMag 5th and Mick 11th?!? Smash all the doors!”
As a result, Watt and his younger brother TJ — also a star defensive player for the Pittsburgh Steelers and current reigning Defensive Player of the Year — were invited to the Haas garage and pit area ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.
During their time in the pits, the Watt brothers spent time with the engineers, trying their hand at the speedy pitstops which wow fans.
Watt told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies that although he’ll need to “work on it,” he believes if he “came back a couple times and had some more, I think I could have been a rock star.”
Steiner, on the other hand, saw some healthy competition between the two NFL star brothers.
“I think his biggest challenge was to beat his brother. I could see, I watched him when they were doing it,” he told Davies.
“They just wanted to beat each other. ‘I was better than you,’ you know? And he being the older one, obviously, he wanted to be the man. It’s not easy. Everybody thinks it’s easy to these pit stops, but they’re quite challenging.”
After the captivating weekend Watt had, he once again tweeted his praise of Steiner.
“Whatever team Guenther Steiner is principal of, I’m a fan,” he wrote. “Massive thank you to Guenther, KMag, Mick, Stu & everyone in the Haas garage for the hospitality and letting us test our pit stop skills.
“We may not fit in the car, but we can lift the damn thing.”
Watt and Steiner are two ends of the physical scale.
One a massive, imposing Goliath of a man, the other a smaller, slight greying European with a distinctive mustache.
“He’s a superstar,” Steiner says about Watt. “He’s the real man. Look just at the size of us. I’m a little mouse compared to him.”
But what Steiner might lack in physical size, he sure makes up for in personality.
Watt has become enamored with his charismatic nature, going as far as calling him a “pretty massive celebrity around here.” But it is his honesty that really captured the 33-year-old’s heart.
“I think it’s the passion, it’s the excitement, it’s the teamwork and the energy that goes into it. I think specifically here,” Watt explained. “And I think specifically, the reason people relate to Guenther is because of his energy and how much he pours into his team and his guys, how much he cares and a little bit of flare and a little bit of the character and the colorful language as well.
“But it’s real, it’s honest, it’s true. And you can tell that it means something, and I think that’s what’s so cool about it.”
During his time at the Miami GP — the debut race at the new Florida circuit — Watt was shown the inner workings of the Haas F1 team.
He spent time with both Magnussen and Schumacher, getting the inside track on how the American team does things.
And even for someone plying his trade in a detailed orientated sport — with playbooks and exact diets — Watt admitted he was impressed with the precision required to be successful in the sport.
“The amount of things that need to go correctly for this thing to be successful. I mean, every single little nut and bolt, and there’s a guy with Windex wiping down the wing and just the amount of things and the amount of people that it takes for this to be successful and if one person screws up one time, the whole thing can fall apart. And I think it’s incredible to watch it in motion.”
The Watt brothers weren’t the only NFL superstars spotted in the pit lane at the Miami GP.
Seven-time Super Bowl champion and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was pictured with other sporting legends Michael Jordan and David Beckham.
The star-studded event was described as the “F1’s Super Bowl” by Lewis Hamilton to Brady earlier in the week, and it certainly had the feel of a showpiece event with the A-list celebrities in attendance.
Although Max Verstappen put in a dominant performance to claim the inaugural title, it was a showpiece event on the F1 calendar, and Steiner believes it can have a positive effect on growing the sport in the US.
“Can we keep it growing? I don’t know because, next year, we have got Las Vegas for sure that will be our next thing, but I think Liberty Media knows exactly what to do,” Steiner said.
“Like they brought Formula One to this point, they will know how to do the next one. And I think the next thing is stabilize it here, where it is. And then maybe whenever we are ready, we can improve again.
“But in the moment, I think we are at the high level. And even if there is a little bit less in the years coming, I don’t think that’s a drama because it’s so much interest in the moment. And I find it’s great and what Liberty did with his sport in the US is just fantastic.”