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Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

Why Lambiase wasn’t engineering Verstappen during messy Imola FP1 showing

Max Verstappen’s regular – and famous – race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase did not guide the Dutchman through FP1 for Formula 1’s 2024 Imola race to give Verstappen’s performance engineer practice in that role.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Gianpiero Lambiase, Race Engineer, Red Bull Racing

Red Bull opened up for first practice at Imola on Friday afternoon with Tom Hart acting as the voice in Verstappen’s ear instead of Lambiase, who is also Red Bull’s head of race engineering.

The team explained to Autosport that the temporary situation is being enacted to provide Hart with additional experience working as a race engineer – as he also did during second practice for the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and so he better understands Lambiase’s role to improve their respective working relationship.

Hart’s efforts during FP1 got a greater airing than might otherwise have occurred due to Verstappen’s series of wild moments in the closing stages of the first 60-minute practice session for the Emilia Romagna race.

The Dutchman’s first attempt to topple Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc from the top of the times would have ended successfully but for a slow middle sector.

Verstappen then came on the radio to report his updated Red Bull was “a disaster – I have no f****** grip there” through the Acque Minerali section, where he would later go off through the gravel during FP1’s closing moments while on a third softs-shod flying lap.

On his second effort on softs, Verstappen lost the rear of his RB20 briefly while braking from high speed on the approach to the Variante Alta and, although he rapidly caught the snap, he had to cut across the grass.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“I can’t brake later because then the car wants to bottom really badly, then on the entry to the apex I just have no f****** front,” Verstappen said of his initial struggles through the Acque Minerali complex.

When Hart told Verstappen his sector two struggles included being “a little bit weak” at Tosa and Piratella, the world champion replied: “Yeah, but what is weak? I understand I’m off, but what is going on there?”

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Verstappen went on to finish fifth in FP1 amid his struggles, with Sergio Perez one place ahead in the other Red Bull.

Perez earned his team a €1,000 fine for being 5.5mph over the pitlane speed limit during the session’s early stages.

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