Gianpiero Lambiase discloses ‘biggest fear’ over Max Verstappen treatment

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium at the Qatar Grand Prix with Gianpiero Lambiase.

Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium at the Qatar Grand Prix with Gianpiero Lambiase.

Max Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase has opened up on his relationship with the mercurial Dutch driver after clinching a third consecutive F1 title.

The Italian/British race engineer for Max Verstappen has become almost as famous as the driver he oversees at Red Bull, thanks to his no-nonsense attitude to dealing with the fiery temper of the reigning World Champion when things aren’t exactly to his liking.

The pair are well-known for having icy radio exchanges and Lambiase’s sarcasm has made him a cult figure amongst F1 fans, but the truth of the matter is that both enjoy a brotherly bond that has even prompted Verstappen to say he won’t work with any other engineer during his time in the sport.

Max Verstappen and Gianpiero Lambiase elaborate on brotherly bond

Appearing on Red Bull’s Talking Bull podcast, the duo addressed questions put to them about their career working together, as well as how they’ve dealt with some of the tough moments when Verstappen wasn’t in a position to win.

With Lambiase detailing how he and Verstappen will have completed eight full seasons working together after this season, Verstappen joked “I thought he was going to say too long!”

Lambiase explained that he and Verstappen get along very well but, due to the frantic nature of their work, there is no expectation from him to expect socialising with the Dutch driver during his free time.

“There are so many races and there’s so much time that you are forced to be together that I think it would be unfair to expect Max to want to spend even more time with me or vice versa when he’s finally got a weekend off,” Lambiase said.

“The thing is also that I come to the UK to do simulator stuff,” Verstappen replied.

“Then I’m really happy to leave the UK to go back home and, as GP says, we’re doing so many races together that it’s also nice to just when you have free time, spend it with your close ones, your family and friends because I think they deserve all the attention as well.

“But we did meet up during the holidays. We spent the day together. So, yeah, it’s nice to do it here and there, but I think we see each other more than we see for you, your wife, for me, my girlfriend.”

Verstappen acknowledged their relationship is “very intense,” with Lambiase joking that it’s still “an easier relationship” than any at home.

Intriguingly, addressing the elephant in the room that is Verstappen’s temper, Lambiase said the relationship wasn’t as amiable during the time period before the victories began.

“I think it’s only natural that after seven, eight years, that we know each other inside out and we know what triggers the other one or how to perhaps coax or put the arm around the other one’s shoulder,” he said.

“So I think we know how to manage ourselves out of a difficult situation and also enjoy the better situations.

“But I think, perhaps until three years ago, I think perhaps 2018, ‘19, ’20 when the car wasn’t quite as competitive as we the team would have liked – I think especially Max – because at that point you could see his frustration coming through already that he wasn’t able to compete for the championships at that point.

“We had a few ups and downs, I would say, in that period, the middle, 3rd, 4th, 5th year…”

Verstappen piped in to say that they were “true arguments”, with Lambiase saying the intensity of the title fight in 2021 with Lewis Hamilton cemented their bond.

“Since 21 was so intense, I think the relationship and the bond was cemented that year, and then last year and this year has just been a continuation of that,” he said. “Yeah, I think he’s my little brother.”

Gianpiero Lambiase reveals fear once Max Verstappen’s domination ends

But while everything is currently a bed of roses for the Verstappen/Lambiase partnership as they sweep everyone in front of them, the engineer said he fears the day the domination ends.

“My biggest fear is the moment that we do have increased competition,” he said.

“And we’re not winning every race because you see how he’s treating me at the moment! And he’s winning every race. So that’d be I’m really not looking forward to it again!”

With Verstappen laughing and saying “Oh dear,” in response to this, the three-time World Champion said he feels his own increasing maturity as he gets older will have helped with that by the time his domination ends.

“I started at the team when I was 18 years old,” he said.

“I’m 26 now. So also, I think as a person, I’ve grown a lot. So when I look back at those kinds of images from the first few races I did with the team, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God’.

“It’s very different. I think also in my behavior, I think it’s only natural that also the connection and just me also growing up more, I think that helps a lot in your relationship.

“I still get upset. Even in such a dominant season, when things don’t go well. It’s the same for GP, we still want to win, and we still want to do everything as perfectly as we can, even though, I mean, no one is perfect.

“But we try to be as close to perfection as possible. That’s why sometimes, of course, we still have our arguments, but it’s all because we are very driven to win. We don’t like when we come out of a weekend,’ Oh, how we could have done things better, or quite a bit better?’

“It still upsets us, which I think is good because, if you don’t have that drive, then I think something is wrong.”

Summing it up, Lambiase said that, fundamentally, he and his driver share a core value that has enabled them to bring out the best in each other.

“I was asked for one word to describe Max,” he said.

“My word was insatiable – which I think goes for me as well – in that, no matter how many races we win or how many championships we have won or could win, I think the point is I don’t think we’re ever happy and, our bar is so high, I’d say we’re both perfectionists in that respect, that nothing is ever good enough.

“I think that’s what really motivates us to just keep doing what we’re doing, following the process, and achieving the best that we can.”

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