Formula 1 fans gathered at a massive track southeast of Austin to celebrate winner Max Verstappen in his thrilling victory over Lewis Hamilton.
Then Shaquille O’Neal overshadowed the podium. Literally. Formula 1 officials asked the NBA great to pass out the winning hardware. And afterward, Shaq posed with the winners. And although Verstappen and Hamilton had the advantage of a steep podium step, Shaq towered over them.
Outsiders, if you haven’t seen the photo of 7-foot-1 O’Neal posing with the Formula 1 drivers, we got you. Here’s betting that the photos coming out of the Circuit of the Americas will launch many, many memes.
For context, Verstappen is 5-11. He’s Dutch, so he’s used to being around tall people. The Netherlands sport the tallest folks in the world. The average Dutch person is 6 feet.
Formula 1 drivers tend to be smaller people. Their weight is added into the total of the car. So a team owner would rather the extra weight go into the car, not behind the steering wheel. And besides, there’s only so much room inside the car.
This isn’t Shaq’s first time at an F1 track. He met his first Formula 1 driver two decades ago. And that was when he was spending time in Germany. Fans shared similar gawking kind of responses as they did in Austin. After all, 7-1 is big in Germany, too.
He picked up Formula 1 driver Nick Heidfeld. Then he bench pressed him with one arm into the air. Hedfield weighed about 130 pounds.
O’Neal said no one recognized him in Germany, although he spent four years in the country back in the 1980s when his father was stationed there with the military.
“I went to the town and we were walking around,” he said. “The people didn’t recognize me. We were even going up to people and saying, ‘Hey, I’m Shaq,’ and the people would look at me and walk on by.”
Shaq was at COTA for the race for business reasons. The U.S. Grand Prix also is a festival of music. Shaq was a D.J. at a post-race dance party. At the club, he goes by DJ Diesel.
Before the race, Shaq got a VIP pass and walked the grid as the Formula 1 drivers did their last-minute checks. He stopped by to visit the Red Bull team and Verstappen.
Then, he was in a custom Cadillac, decorated with giant longhorns, as he sat with the Grand Prix trophy. Because everything is supersized in Texas.
He knows his way around this part of the state, too. Shaq went to Cole High School near San Antonio. He helped win his team a state championship in Austin in 1989. Then he was off to LSU, then the NBA and into basketball history.