Lambiase extensively about ‘younger brother’ Verstappen: ‘Don’t want to speak out of turn, but…’

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Lambiase extensively about 'younger brother' Verstappen: 'Don't want to speak out of turn, but...'

If you ask about leaders of Red Bull Racing, you will usually hear four names: Max Verstappen, Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, and Helmut Marko. Yet the role of race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase cannot be underestimated. The Brit is in direct contact with Verstappen during the sessions, and this creates a strong relationship, which connects both Verstappen and Lambiase to their further Formula 1 future.

Tom Stallard, Oscar Piastri’s engineer at McLaren, who won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics as Great Britain’s rower, tried to explain to the BBC what the role of the race engineer is. ‘You’re actually trying to take a lot of the thinking away from the driver, so that he can concentrate on the moment itself, and focus on the next corner, and get the most out of the car.

Engineer as interpreter within the team

Jenson Button, Carlos Sainz, and Daniel Ricciardo, among others, have already worked with Stallard as an engineer. “As an engineer you are the interpreter between the technical department and the driver,” the 45-year-old explains. ‘We must ensure that we transfer the information between both parties as best as possible. It is therefore very important to build good social contact. You don’t have to go out together, but you should spend time together, ask questions, and share stories.’

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oscar piastri mclaren australia 2024
Under Stallard’s leadership, Piastri seems to have taken an extra step in 2024.

Stallard already had to deal with his fifth driver at McLaren in 2023 with Piastri. ‘We built that relationship by going out to eat together a few times, but we also just spend a lot of time together at the factory, having coffee together and talking about racing situations from our careers. We often talk about moments when we made mistakes, to share the painful lessons from Formula 1. This way you can improve your preparation with some humor, because you can often laugh about your mistakes afterwards.’

Lambiase still had experience working with Verstappen

World champion Verstappen has only worked with two race engineers in Formula 1: Xavi Pujolar at Toro Rosso, and since 2016 he has been guided by Gianpiero Lambiase at Red Bull. “I had already worked with several drivers before I started working with Max,” says Lambiase, who was Sergio Pérez’s race engineer in 2014. “If I had been new to my role… I don’t want to say he would have eaten me alive, but I don’t think he would have had much respect for a new engineer,” laughs the 43-year-old, who is now also Head or Race Engineering is with the team.

Lambiase knows that Verstappen, who made his debut at the age of 17 and moved to Red Bull at the age of 18, has had a hard time. “Max learned some really tough lessons in the two to three years leading up to 2021,” Lambiase realizes. “His racecraft is something we really focused on, to make sure he picked up points when he couldn’t win. We focused on building his consistency and him finishing every race. “He had to make sure he didn’t put himself in a position where he could end up in a 50/50 accident with another driver.”

Sharp comments are part of it

Verstappen previously described Lambiase as a big brother, and after his title in 2021 indicated that he only wanted to work with Lambiase in Formula 1. Yet both gentlemen can also be quite critical of each other. ‘I think it’s inevitable in any relationship that there will be disagreements. First of all, you just have to accept that. In addition, you must have confidence in each other and realize that those comments are for a greater good and are not meant to be bad. That forms the basis of the relationship.’

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Lambiase extensively about 'younger brother' Verstappen: 'Don't want to speak out of turn, but...'
Christian Horner already described Lambiase as the Jason Statham of the team.

Lambiase therefore takes into account that the pressure can sometimes increase on drivers during the sessions. ‘As an engineer I have to realize that Max is ultimately in a pressure cooker, and not me. We all work in an environment where the pressure is high, but that pressure is at a completely different level for the driver. As an ‘older man’ I hope that I am mature enough to sometimes take a step back and let him have some rants when necessary, but I also have to make sure that he understands why we make certain choices.’

Keeping a cool head in 2021

The fact that Verstappen does not easily go along with everything is not a problem for Lambiase. ‘If I was a yes-man, I wouldn’t have been here for a long time. We just have an honest relationship, where we can be blunt and straightforward when necessary.’ Especially in 2021, it was exciting almost every weekend, with Abu Dhabi as the crazy climax. “I wouldn’t really like to repeat 2021,” laughs Lambiase. ‘It was incredibly competitive, on and off the track, but sometimes it went beyond what the sport was intended for.’

Lambiase explains how he assisted Verstappen during those tense months. ‘I tried to take the pressure off him and make it clear to everyone in the team that we just had to take the same approach as always. We considered each race as a separate event and tried not to look too far ahead,” Lambiase said, referring to the title battle with Lewis Hamilton. Ultimately, the fighting cocks went to the season finale with 369.5 points each, where the Limburger took the lead in the last round, thus making his lifelong dream come true.

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Lambiase extensively about 'younger brother' Verstappen: 'Don't want to speak out of turn, but...'
Jos Verstappen and Max Verstappen after Abu Dhabi 2021 in one word: disbelief.

Little brother

Lambiase and Verstappen have become incredibly close over the years, partly thanks to 2021. Verstappen already described the 43-year-old man from London as his big brother, and that is how Lambiase himself sees it. “I honestly see Max as a younger brother,” Lambiase agrees. ‘We can talk anywhere and about anyone at any time. We’ve gotten to the point where we feel completely relaxed and comfortable with each other.’

Verstappen himself indicated that he never wants to work with anyone else again, and Lambiase also seems to agree with that. “Maybe I’m speaking out of turn, but I don’t think I would be interested in working with another driver right now,” Lambiase also linked his future to the 26-year-old Dutchman.

“We’ve had so much success together, Max and I, and I’m working with one of the greatest talents the sport has ever seen, so I don’t think it would be fair to any other driver, from their perspective or from my perspective , to try to emulate what we achieved together with Max.” Verstappen still has a contract with Red Bull until 2028. The duo has already won 56 Grands Prix together.

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