Gianpiero Lambiase, also known as ‘GP’, has been race engineer for Max Verstappen since the Dutchman moved from Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing in 2016. In the recently published Red Bulletin Heroes Verstappen Edition magazine, GP reminisced about the early days of his working relationship with Max Verstappen, the Dutchman’s qualities as a racer and the team radio in the moments after last season’s title clinching Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen has always been a racer that draws a lot of attention. He made history as the youngest driver to race in Formula One when he joined Toro Rosso and almost scored points on his Formula One Grand Prix debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. On that day, an engine failure led to a retirement, but Verstappen did not have to wait long to make even more history. His seventh-place finish in Malaysia, at the following Grand Prix, put him in the history books as the youngest point scorer in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Max Verstappen’s form was so impressive that he famously swapped places with Daniil Kvyat when he joined Red Bull Racing in 2016. The Dutchman’s impact on his new team was instant as on his first Grand Prix weekend, having been in strong contention for pole position the previous day, Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix. This event was recollected by Gianpiero Lambiase and shows how impressed the race engineer was with Max Verstappen from their first encounter.
"Anyone who changes teams has to process a mountain of new information," Lambiase said. "It already felt like he had been with us for weeks. He absorbed everything, almost beat his teammate in qualifying and eventually won the race."
The recent remarks from Gianpiero Lambiase also praised the direct nature of Max Verstappen as he said "The relationship between a driver and a race engineer is based on mutual trust. The more direct a driver is, the more he trusts the team," At a time when team radio is so widely heard, there are some who feel that drivers are too blunt, open and honest about the failings of the car they are driving. For Lambiase, he feels such honest communication is key for success.
"My experience is that if a driver stops giving his honest opinion about the car and starts circling it, the results get worse. Max is direct, but so am I. That makes working with him very open, honest and easy." Lambiase told Red Bulletin. "Some drivers want to get to the bottom of the data, while others don't want to be involved at all. And then there's Max…he explains very precisely where he can push the car to the limit and what exactly he needs to drive faster. We always know what to do because of his instructions. A driver who can communicate clearly is a great gift."
Lambiase also commented on Verstappen’s ‘incredibly natural feel for racing, coupled with a good analytical mind’. These qualities and the fact that ‘Max was fast right away’ can be used to explain how Verstappen has established himself as a team leader at Red Bull Racing. "He knows the limits of the car and what he needs to do to make it go even faster. So it makes sense for us engineers to listen to him." Lambiase said.
While reminiscing to Red Bulletin, no interview with G.P. would be complete without recalling the closing stages of the title-defining 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In the same way many millions of people around the world were on the edge of their seat watching an unforgettable final lap, Lambiase was going through every emotion in the Red Bull Racing garage.
"The excitement of taking over the lead was quickly overcome by fear of a close loss, especially when Lewis was right behind him on the straights," Lambiase said "I just shouted something [over team radio]. Usually I'm very shy, but at that moment it all came out. How emotional that was. It was great. My wife and daughter have had to learn to live with the fact that I am away so often. And then there is Max's first title, my first title. It was and is an insanely emotional moment. I will never forget that feeling."
There may still be many other such feelings to come for Gianpiero Lambiase and Max Verstappen seeing how the reigning F1 Drivers’ Champion has already signed a long-term deal which keeps him in the Red Bull Racing ranks until the end of 2028. This is a move which GP feels can’t help but influence those working within the team as he said: "His long-standing commitment to the team also plays a part, he wants to be part of Red Bull for the long term; he believes in us and in our work."
Max Verstappen has previously praised his race engineer for his dedication and passion and Lambiase’s recent remarks show that the feeling is mutual. The Verstappen and GP partnership is one of the strongest on the grid and it is a winning formula which could very well see the pair dominate Formula One for many years to come.