Motor Sport News - - Interview: Watts Retires -

Re­sults: 2000 (10th), 2001 (3rd), 2002 (1st) After grad­u­at­ing to car rac­ing, Watts landed the UK For­mula First ti­tle in 1998 be­fore do­ing For­mula Palmer Audi. But his big­gest early chal­lenge was For­mula Re­nault in 2000, when he was team-mate to Kimi Raikko­nen at Manor.

“For­mula Re­nault was a huge time for me and a mas­sive learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Watts. “I signed with Manor along­side Kimi and I think I learned more that year than per­haps any other in my ca­reer.

“I was never the most nat­u­rally gifted driver and had to work bloody hard at be­ing quick, so I’d take notes con­stantly. Kimi was usu­ally al­ways faster than me. He was spe­cial, and just nat­u­rally quick in ev­ery con­di­tion. I’d get to the track su­per-early and spend hours go­ing through his data try­ing to work out where he was faster than me. He’d rock up late, have a snooze in the back of the truck, then plonk his hel­met on and go smash what­ever time I was try­ing to catch. He was im­mense and a re­ally good laugh too.

“I still have his data and those notes and I pull them out ev­ery now and then as a re­minder. I won the first-ever race for the Tatuus chas­sis at Brands Hatch that year, which was the only time I beat Kimi. But then I got into too many shunts to be in the cham­pi­onship pic­ture. Kimi of course then went straight to F1 with Sauber, which none of us saw com­ing.

“Work­ing with Manor boss Tony Shaw and my race en­gi­neer Si­mon Fin­nis was great. They were blackand-white type of peo­ple and there was no bullsh*t. They bol­locked me when I needed it and kept me in line and the re­sults came.

“I moved to Fortec for 2002 and it was my big year. It was my third in the cat­e­gory and I sim­ply had to win it, but the strength in depth of the grid was amaz­ing look­ing back, es­pe­cially at what driv­ers like Lewis [Hamil­ton] and Jamie [Green] have gone on to achieve.

“I started the year re­ally well and racked up the wins to get a points gap and used the ex­pe­ri­ence ad­van­tage, but Lewis and Jamie came on so strong at the end of the year as they got up to speed. I re­mem­ber the season fi­nale at Don­ing­ton and the first race on Satur­day. We had an amaz­ing three-car fight for the lead, trad­ing it ev­ery lap and just giv­ing each other enough room to be fair. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had. Lewis won it but I took the ti­tle and went out par­ty­ing on Satur­day night. I was nowhere on Sun­day and had a blind­ing headache, but I was cham­pion.”

Hamil­ton (no. 25) and Watts in 2002 Watts (left) beat Lewis Hamil­ton to FRUK ti­tle

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