A hulking six-foot-four NFL colossus and an Italian team principal of a Formula 1 team probably aren’t the best of friends.
But JJ Watt and Guenther Steiner are breaking that mould.
Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt fell in love with Formula 1 thanks to Netflix’s hit immersive documentary ‘Drive to Survive’ and his favorite character was none other than the team manager Haas, Steiner.
The 57-year-old avuncular became a fan favorite during the show’s F1 season documentation, notably catching the eye of star defensive end Arizona Cardinal Watt.
In March this year, after Haas riders Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher finished fifth and 11th respectively at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Watt tweeted: “Someone put Guenther Steiner in front of a camera and inject him into my veins. KMag 5th and Mick 11th?!? Break down 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 quick pit stops that wow fans.
Watt told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies that while he’ll have to “work on it,” he thinks if he “come back a few times and had a little bit more, I think I could have been a rock star.”
Steiner, on the other hand, saw healthy competition between the two NFL star brothers.
“I think his biggest challenge was beating his brother. I could see, I was watching him when they were doing it,” he told Davies.
“They just wanted to fight. “I was better than you”, you know? And him being the oldest, of course, he wanted to be the man. It is not easy. Everyone thinks these pit stops are easy, but they’re pretty tough.
After Watt’s thrilling weekend, he tweeted his praises to Steiner again.
“Whichever team Guenther Steiner is manager of, I’m a fan,” he wrote. “A big thank you to Guenther, KMag, Mick, Stu and everyone in the Haas Garage for the hospitality and letting us test our pit stop skills.
“We might not fit in the car, but we can lift this fucking thing.”
Watt and Steiner are the two ends of the physical scale.
One is a hulking, hulking Goliath, the other a smaller, slightly grizzled European with a distinctive mustache.
“He’s a superstar,” Steiner says of Watt. “He’s the real man. Just look at our size. I’m a little mouse compared to him.
But what Steiner might lack in physical size, he certainly makes up for in personality.
Watt fell in love with his charismatic nature, going so far as to call him “pretty massive celebrity around here.” But it was 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 with it. I think specifically here,” Watt explained. “And I think specifically the reason people relate to Guenther is because of his energy and all the stuff he pours into his team and his guys, how much he cares and kind of a flare and some of the character and colorful language as well.
“But it’s real, it’s honest, it’s true. And you can tell that means something, and I think that’s what’s so cool about it.
While at the Miami GP – the first race at the new Florida circuit – Watt learned about the inner workings of the Haas F1 team.
He spent time with Magnussen and Schumacher, getting an inside track on how Team USA does things.
And even for someone who plies his trade in a detail-oriented sport – with exact playbooks and diets – Watt admitted he’s impressed with the precision required to succeed in the sport.
“The amount of things that have to go right for this thing to succeed. I mean, every little nut and bolt, and there’s a guy with Windex wiping the wing and just the amount of stuff and the amount of people it takes to make it happen and if one person gets it wrong once , the whole thing can collapse. And I think it’s amazing to see 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 fellow sports legends Michael Jordan and David Beckham.
The star-studded event was described as the “Super Bowl of F1” by Lewis Hamilton at Brady earlier in the week, and it certainly felt like a showpiece event with the A-list celebrities in attendance.
Although Max Verstappen put in a dominating performance to win the inaugural title, it was a showpiece event on the F1 calendar, and Steiner believes it can have a positive effect on the sport’s growth in the United States.
“Can we keep growing it? I don’t know because next year we’ll definitely have Las Vegas which will be our next thing, but I think Liberty Media knows exactly what to do,” Steiner said.
“As they have brought Formula 1 to this stage, they will know how to do the next one. And I think the next thing is to stabilize it here, where it is. And then maybe whenever we are ready, we can improve again.
“But at the moment I think we are at the top level. And even if there’s a little less in the years to come, I don’t think it’s a drama because it’s so interesting right now. And I think that’s great and what Liberty has done with their sport in the United States is just fantastic.