Helmut Marko reacts to bickering Max Verstappen and Gianpiero Lambiase

Michelle Foster
Gianpiero Lambiase explains to Max Verstappen as Helmut Marko and Christian Horner watch on. Austria June 2023

Race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase explains to Max Verstappen as Helmut Marko and Christian Horner watch on. Austria June 2023

Helmut Marko has joked he’ll be keeping his phone close by should Max Verstappen and Gianpiero Lambiase need a “mediator” during the summer holiday.

Although there have been moments of tension between Verstappen and his race engineer in the past, at Spa it reached a new level as the “old married coupled”, as they’ve been billed by many, argued.

Starting on Friday when Verstappen wasn’t happy with GP’s run plan, their testy exchange continued on Sunday with GP telling his driver to “use his head”.

Helmut Marko feels too much has been made of the Spa spat

As Verstappen cruised to the victory, his eighth on the trot, his race engineer brought his tyre management to his attention a few times and rather sternly told him to “follow my instructions”.

The reigning World Champion went on to win the grand prix by 22 seconds ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez and in doing so extended his advantage at the top of the standings to 125 points.

He was quick to downplay Sunday’s tension, saying “that’s how we operate” and admitting that losing GP, if he were to be “removed or whatever”, it would “definitely not be ideal at all” such is the importance of their relationship.

It’s a relationship that Marko says he’ll do his part to maintain.

Joking to Servus TV, the Red Bull motorsport advisor said: “Well, I’ve heard they might spend two days together on an island in the Mediterranean. My phone is on in case it escalates, I’ll be there as a mediator!”

On a serious note, the Austrian feels too much was made of their Spa spat.

“They operate at a very high level and respect each other. GP has Italian roots and Max is also very temperamental,” he said.

“We know the background and then it gets even funnier…. but unfortunately I can’t reveal everything.

“Of course, he [Max] has his own ideas, like doing an extra stop now to give the team another pit stop training and secure the fastest lap. But it wasn’t worth that risk.”

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Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport on Sunday evening, Marko hinted that their exchange could’ve even been part of a “coded” conversation.

“The engineer is in a field of tension. He has a lot of stuff on his headphones. He’s fed information that Max doesn’t have and that he can’t always pass on one-to-one,” he said.

“Sometimes you have to answer in coded form. If you know the details, then it can sometimes be a very complex conversation from a technical point of view. And that at full racing speed.”

As for his driver’s latest win, his 10th of the season and one he secured even after starting P6 on the grid, Marko said: “He would probably have won from the last place on the grid.”

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