How race engineer dare ‘wound up’ Max Verstappen for ‘stunning’ pole lap

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Max Verstappen on pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen on pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen wasn’t going to be happy unless he produced a 1:28 in qualifying, having been spurred on by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

The Dutch driver produced a 1:29.012 on his first run in Q3, already a lap that looked good enough to confirm himself in pole position as he was four-tenths of a second quicker than second-quickest Oscar Piastri.

But Verstappen wasn’t done, as he took another set of fresh softs for his second run in Q3 and stormed around in a 1:28.877 to beat his own time by another tenth of a second and wind up almost a full six-tenths clear of anyone else.

Max Verstappen: I knew there was still a little bit left

On the slowdown lap, Verstappen was heard on the team radio to race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase saying, “There you go, 28”, referring to his laptime.

Speaking in the press conference after claiming his 29th career pole position, Verstappen was asked about the message, with the reigning World Champion revealing he had been spurred on by Lambiase telling him he wanted a 1:28 laptime.

“Yeah, he told me like 1:28 would be nice,” Verstappen said.

“I said ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna send it’ and then he was like, ‘Yeah, but like don’t shunt the car, right?’

“I was like, ‘Yeah, obviously, that’s not what I want to do’.”

Verstappen explained that, despite his impressive first run, he knew there was more time on the table.

“I knew that there was still a little bit left in a few places,” he said.

“That’s what I tried to tidy up, which worked out quite well.”

Christian Horner: Max Verstappen laptime produced after being ‘wound up’ by Gianpiero Lambiase

Speaking to Sky F1, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he’d been privy to the chat between Verstappen and Lambiase, and he’d been less enthused by seeing the Dutch driver attempt the feat.

“GP [Lambiase] started winding him up for the last run, to say ‘Let’s see a 28 today’,” Horner said.

“I said to GP ‘Look, I’d like to see four wheels on the car at the end of it!’

“That first run looked good enough to get the job done, but then he just went quicker again.”

“All his laps have been stunning today. He’s done three laps on new tyres, and the lap on scrubbed tyres in Q2 to go second fastest… it has been an absolutely mind-blowing performance.”

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