Max Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase detailed how the first turning point in the Dutchman’s career was a realisation that he could not continue “crashing into something or somebody”, followed by a long-game mentality.
Verstappen has positioned himself firmly atop the F1 mountain, winning a sensational 19 grands prix out of 22 in F1 2023 to become a three-time World Champion, the era of Verstappen showing zero sign of coming to an end as Red Bull continue to do their part in mastering the era of ground effect aerodynamics.
But while Verstappen’s ability has been clearly evident since debuting as a 17-year-old with Toro Rosso in 2015, it has not been a smooth journey to mould that raw talent into a dominant force.
Max Verstappen had two-part F1 breakthrough
Speaking in a Red Bull video, Lambiase, who has been Verstappen’s race engineer since he stepped up to the main Red Bull team in 2016, revealed the two “turning points” that allowed Verstappen to reach his all-conquering level of today.
Starting with the realisation in 2018 that he could not continue his crash-ridden ways, that difficult start to the season including the infamous Baku shunt with Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Lambiase explained that Verstappen made a breakthrough from there by changing his approach, later building on that with the realisation that he needed to be in it to win it.
“Working closely with him, there’s been two stages in his development,” said Lambiase.
“The first one was in early 2018, where we had a fairly rough ride in the first six or seven races. We couldn’t do anything but crash into something or somebody, I think that year, there was a turning point where he realised he needed to change or things are going in the wrong direction.
“From the midseason onwards, he was really competitive against Daniel for the rest of that year.
“The second one was a build-up from 2018 and is actually starting to learn that you needed to be at the chequered flag if you actually wanted to start competing for a championship.
“I think that penny sunk through 2020 when the car wasn’t quite as competitive as it was the following year. So he couldn’t mount a championship challenge per se, but he was ultra consistent.
“Then in 2021, I think that ultimately is what won him the championship, his level of consistency.”
Verstappen will look to emulate Sebastian Vettel’s streak with Red Bull in F1 2024 by claiming a fourth World Championship on the trot.
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