Lambiase says he would not “have any interest in working with another driver” in F1 after Verstappen success

GP Lambiase and Max Verstappen speaking pre race at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix
GP Lambiase & Max Verstappen speak on the grid prior to the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix - Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
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Red Bull’s Gianpiero Lambiase reflects on his time working with three-time champion Max Verstappen so far in Formula 1, from the Dutchman’s promotion to Red Bull in 2016 to present.

Since joining Red Bull Racing from Toro Rosso ahead of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, three-time drivers’ champion Max Verstappen has worked closely with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase. Lambiase, who initially joined the team in 2015 working with Daniil Kvyat, says his experience in the role allowed him to quickly develop a relationship with Verstappen.

With Verstappen joining the team mid season, the two had little time to get to know each other and develop a relationship. The experienced hands of Lambiase however helped to develop the young Dutchman into F1’s dominant force we see today.

“I had experience working with multiple drivers before Max, and that was one of the biggest helps in terms of hitting the ground running with him,” Lambiase said, speaking with the BBC. “I think if I would have been a newbie to my role – I won’t quite say he would have eaten me alive, but I’m not sure he would have had that respect for a junior engineer.”

Lambiase’s experience helped to ease the difficulty the team were facing in beating the then dominant Mercedes team in the first few years of Verstappen’s time with Red Bull. Lambiase breaks down how the work put in early in the partnership helped to shape Verstappen.

“Max learned some really harsh lessons in the two or three years before 2021,” He said.. “His racecraft really was something that we focused on, making sure we were just picking up points when it wasn’t possible to win a race.

“We were concentrating on building his consistency, needing to be finishing every race, maybe not putting himself in a situation where he can end up in a 50/50 accident with another driver.”

Lambiase also recognises that his relationship with Verstappen has its highs and lows. While communication between the drivers and their engineers is not constantly broadcast, snippets often are. On occasion both Lambiase and Verstappen can be heard to be almost hostile with each other, such as Verstappen’s outburst and Lambiase’s sarcastic response during the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix weekend when the Dutchman almost got knocked out in Q2.

Despite this, Lambiase takes it in his stride, acknowledging that as with any friendship, arguments do happen. He says both himself and Verstappen are professional enough to see past any disagreements and continue working well together.

“I think it is inevitable in any relationship that there are disagreements,” Lambiase admits. “The first port of call is acceptance of that. Secondly, you need to have faith in each other that it is for the greater good rather than there being any kind of malicious undertone. That is at the core of the relationship.

“As an engineer, I need to understand that ultimately Max is in the hot seat, not me. So while we are all working in a pressurised environment, the driver is at a level well beyond that.

“As an older citizen I would like to think I am mature enough to step back and let him vent when necessary, but to also make him understand why decisions are being made. If I was a yes man, I would have been gone long ago. We have just got that honesty in the relationship between us that we can be blunt and straight-talking when needed.”

Lambiase also went on to reflect on the tightly contested 2021 season, culminating in Verstappen’s first championship. He admits that despite being entertaining, he would not want to experience another season like 2021.

“I wouldn’t want to repeat 2021 in a hurry,” he said.. “It was incredibly competitive on and off the track [but] sometimes I think it went beyond the realms of sport.

“In terms of taking that pressure away from Max, I tried to stress with everybody here that we continued as normal. We treated every race as a single event rather than trying to look too far down the line at what could be.”

Looking to the future, Lambiase reflected on his relationship with Verstappen before admitting he can’t see himself continuing in his current position with another driver. He cites the success the two have shared as a key factor.

“I honestly see Max as a younger brother,” Lambiase said. “We can talk about anything and anyone at any time. We’re at the point where we just felt completely relaxed and at ease with each other.

“Maybe I am speaking out of turn, but I don’t think I would have any interest in working with another driver now.

“Having had the success that we have enjoyed together with Max, working with one of the greatest talents that the sport has ever seen, I don’t think it would be fair on another driver, from their perspective or mine, to try and replicate what we have achieved with Max.”