Verstappen’s race | Lambiase is used to grumbling: ‘It’s nice that you only have good news, Max’

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Verstappen's race |  Lambiase is used to grumbling: 'It's nice that you only have good news, Max'

In ‘Verstappen’s race’, Max Verstappen’s race weekend is put under the magnifying glass. This way you will find out things that you may have missed during the broadcast. However, Verstappen’s race in Australia only lasted a handful of laps, as he retired due to a problem with the right rear brake caliper. However, the three-time world champion still left Melbourne as the championship leader.

Red Bull Racing’s weekend in Australia did not go smoothly after balance problems during free practice, qualifying and a brake caliper that did not function as it should. The championship formation ultimately managed to gain ‘only’ ten points thanks to Sergio Pérez’s P5. Verstappen complained during the sessions on Friday and Saturday that the RB20 was not running completely in line, and he also suffered from an understeering car. All in all, a weekend to forget for the Dutchman, who gave a calm explanation to the media afterwards and was already looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix.

“Is he drinking a fucking cup of coffee or something?”

Verstappen was on the track early in the first free practice and experienced some problems after a few laps, but not with the car itself. “I can’t hear you very well, Max,” race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase said over the on-board radio. Verstappen then replied, but again he could not be heard. ‘Yes, I can’t feel where my microphone is. This is really a shit microphone,” grumbled the 26-year-old, who was audible at the time. “Okay, but are you coming in for an adjustment to the front wing?” Lambiase asked. “Yes, three or four clicks,” said Verstappen. The Limburger briefly came through the pit lane to drive past his team for a quick adjustment, then he continued. It was busy on the track, almost all drivers were on the asphalt.

After the first fifteen minutes, Charles Leclerc was the fastest, having clocked a lap of 1:19.337 on the soft tire. Verstappen was also on the soft tire at that time, but his flying lap was four tenths slower than Leclerc’s. Pérez shot to the first time a little later, he was one tenth faster than Leclerc. “How are the tires, Max?” Lambiase asked. “Uhh, the tires are okay,” Verstappen responded. “We’re going for a cool down and then another push lap,” said the engineer, who navigated him through the cars that were also cooling down. In the meantime he had suffered some damage to the floor, which meant that he was in the pit lane for quite a long time. Lando Norris had shot to the first time after the first half hour.

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Verstappen had a difficult start to the weekend in Melbourne. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

Verstappen continued his session on the soft tire after spending a while in the pit box. After a fast lap, the Limburger discovered that the tires could not last much longer. “The tires are fucked,” he indicated. ‘Come in, Max. We’re doing a live pit stop,” said Lambiase, after which the pit crew simulated a pit stop and then the RB20 was pushed back into the garage. He then had no chance to improve his time and to further explore the behavior of the RB20 at the Albert Park Circuit, Alexander Albon crashed hard in the last twenty minutes, neutralizing the session.

When the track was clear again in the last few minutes and Albon’s car was lifted off the circuit, it became busy on the track. “The car has way too much understeer in turn six,” said Verstappen. ‘Some more clicks on the front wing, please.’ The Red Bull driver wanted to make the most of his training, but he was not allowed to. A Sauber got in his way. “Come on, man!” Verstappen shouted, after which some swear words followed. At the end it was time to practice the starting procedure. According to Verstappen, it did not go fast enough. “I think the person is sitting in front of the Mercedes drinking a fucking cup of coffee,” said the Dutchman. “I think he should stay away from that,” Lambiase replied.

RB20 needed re-education: ‘Still a lot of understeer’

In the second free practice, Verstappen was delayed, it took at least twenty minutes before the driver with starting number 1 appeared on the track. This time he started his first laps on the medium tire. “Do you want another adjustment to the tools?” Lambiase asked. “Yes, maybe a little,” replied the three-time world champion. In the meantime, the engineer kept Verstappen informed of everyone sitting near him, while Verstappen looked for a good moment to start a fast lap. The Aston Martin drivers were in P1 and P2 at that time, Pérez was fourth, the Ferrari gentlemen were working on an improvement.

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The RB20 needed a lot of re-training during qualifying. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

The balance was still not right for Verstappen. “I had too much understeer in the last sector, the rest is quite good,” said Verstappen. That was certainly positive, now we still had to work on sector three. The last part of Albert Park consists of a number of slow corners, and Red Bull had to get a little more out of that. After completing a number of laps, the Dutchman went back inside for a short stop, after which he continued his session on the yellow tires. “I still have quite a lot of understeer,” he said. “And again the left front has died,” the 26-year-old continued. With ten minutes left on the clock, Verstappen went back inside, only to come out for a quick lap in the final phase. It looked like they still had some work to do before qualifying day.

‘It’s nice that you only have good news, Max’

Things looked a lot better for Red Bull in the third free practice. Verstappen did not have much to complain about on the on-board radios. However, after the three sessions it was clear that Ferrari would provide the most resistance during qualifying later on Saturday. Verstappen finished FP3 twenty thousandths behind Leclerc, and behind him was Sainz, who was 57 thousandths slower than Verstappen. The asphalt temperatures rose considerably in the few hours between FP3 and qualifying, making it difficult for Red Bull again. “I have so much understeer, really,” said Verstappen. “Do you need an adjustment?” Lambiase asked. “At least three clicks,” said the Dutchman.

Verstappen did have the fastest time at that time, but it did not take long before the Ferrari gentlemen recorded faster times. Sainz and Leclerc were about two tenths faster than Verstappen, who tried again not much later. The onboard images showed that the Limburger was not having as easy a time with the car as we saw in the first two races. He took a purple first sector, but the last sector was not good again. ‘Sainz is currently P1 at 16.7. You are currently P4 at 17.2,” Lambiase informed. “The car still understeers a lot,” said Verstappen. “And my front tires look great too,” he continued cynically. “It’s nice that you only have good news, Max, thank you,” Lambiase replied. Verstappen finished Q1 in third, with only 88 thousandths difference over Sainz. Obviously he was not satisfied.

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Lambiase and Verstappen had plenty of discussions on the on-board radio during qualifying. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

‘That was quite a good round’

With some worries, Verstappen started Q2 and managed to open strongly with a 1:16.387, a lap that was almost three tenths faster than that of Sainz in P2. “An update on the balance sheet, Max?” Lambiase asked. “Still understeer in the first sector, and again in the last sector,” said Verstappen. A number of cars passed by, so it took a while before Lambiase answered. So some work had been done to the RB20 to make it feel better than in Q1, but it was still not optimal. “No adjustments to the flap, then?” Lambiase asked, after which Verstappen indicated that that was indeed not necessary. Verstappen’s time was only improved in the last five minutes, when Sainz fell behind by two tenths.

However, the 26-year-old was already in the garage at that time to prepare for Q3. At that moment it was still very uncertain whether Verstappen would succeed in taking pole position. In addition to Sainz, Leclerc also looked strong, and the gap between Red Bull and Ferrari was about two tenths in Q2. However, in Q3 it all came together for the Austrian team, and Verstappen produced a lap that was almost three tenths faster than Sainz’s. ‘What about the balance sheet now?’ Lambiase asked. “I’m happy with this,” Verstappen replied. “Are you still blocking at the front?” Lambiase continued. “Not much anymore, only in the last sector,” said the Dutchman. “Do you want another shift then?” the engineer asked. “Yes, but a really small one.”

The lap he first drove in Q3 was good enough for provisional pole position, so it was up to Verstappen to drive another lap in the final phase of Q3. It became exciting, because Sainz was also aiming for pole position. The two former teammates exchanged the fastest sector times, but Verstappen was ultimately the fastest driver. Despite the difficult start to qualifying, he still managed to take pole position. ‘Nice job, Max. That’s pole,” Lambiase said. “That was quite a good lap, to be honest,” said Verstappen. “Those were two very good laps, Max,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on the on-board radio.

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Unexpectedly the pole position for Verstappen. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: ‘My brake!’

After a difficult qualifying session, Verstappen was allowed to start the Australian Grand Prix first, but he already experienced problems early in the race. On the second lap he blocked allowing Sainz to get closer and catch him. “I just lost the car, very strange,” said the three-time world champion. Verstappen tried to recover and line up to get back at the Spaniard, but that didn’t work. It soon became clear why. “Fucking hell, the car feels so loose,” said Verstappen when he could not catch up with Sainz. The rear right brake now started to smoke heavily. ‘Uh, I got smoke! Blue smoke!’ said Verstappen.

‘Fire, now fire. My brake,” the Dutchman continued. “My brakes are gone.” It was clear that it was game over for Verstappen. “I can’t brake now,” he said as he entered the pit lane. ‘Can I get out?’ Verstappen asked after he stopped in front of the Red Bull garage. “Yep, just turn off the car,” said Lambiase. Thus, Verstappen’s race down under came to an early end, but he still left Melbourne as the championship leader. Leclerc is now second, the gap between the two is four points. In two weeks the F1 circus will descend on Japan, and Verstappen is undoubtedly already looking forward to that.

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