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Verstappen needed "fire" of Lambiase's messages to reach best F1 levels

Max Verstappen says he needed “a bit of fire” in team radio messages from his Red Bull engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to reach his best Formula 1 performance levels in 2023.

Gianpiero Lambiase, Race Engineer, Red Bull Racing, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, on the podium with the trophies

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The pair’s exchanges became the subject of regular focus in a season starved of alternative narratives overall thanks to Red Bull’s crushingly dominant position at the head of the pecking order. 

When Autosport asked the world champion about their relationship in an exclusive interview, Verstappen said he appreciated Lambiase’s often cutting tone. 

“It’s how the relationship works,” Verstappen explained. “I would be very, not upset, but I wouldn’t want to have an engineer who is very monotone or just says ‘copy… check that’. 

When asked if he needed to be challenged by Lambiase to perform at his best in 2023, Verstappen replied: “Yeah, you just need a bit of fire. That’s how I like to operate.” 

The Dutch driver also said “I guess people love it” when it came to how much air time their often terse team radio exchanges were given in F1’s TV broadcasts in the season just gone. 

“But that’s our relationship,” he continued. “We are very straightforward and if we don’t like something we of course communicate.  

“It’s also a bit F1’s fault [that the messages get so much attention] because they broadcast everything just to throw it out there.  

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Gianpiero Lambiase, Red Bull Racing race engineer

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Gianpiero Lambiase, Red Bull Racing race engineer

“They don’t need to broadcast it – if you know what I mean. So, I guess they also like the excitement coming out. 

“But, our relationship has never really changed in that manner. And also after the race we are absolutely fine because, of course, we are there to win the race.” 

Verstappen also rejected a suggestion – put forward publicly by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the aftermath of the British GP – about his swearing on the radio.

Hamilton had joked “You know he’s serious when he puts the ‘F’ in front of it” after finishing third behind Verstappen and McLaren racer Lando Norris at Silverstone. 

In the Austin race later in the 2023 season, Verstappen became vocally frustrated with Lambiase’s messages as he grappled with a brake problem as Hamilton bore down in the closing stages. 

But he insisted any of his comments or radio tone at any time have “nothing to do with being under pressure”. 

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“[At Austin], I was just not happy with what was going on and I needed full focus just to concentrate on the braking to be consistent,” Verstappen explained.  

“But, it’s good that they [other drivers] might think like that. But, for me, I’m never… Well, even if I am under pressure I’m not making mistakes anyway. So, it’s fine.”

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