“They’re like an old married couple”: How Lambiase guided Verstappen to 40th win

2023 Spanish GP team radio transcript

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Max Verstappen’s 40th Formula 1 victory was not his hardest-fought success. Arguably it was the opposite.

Despite that, there were moments of tension between the driver and his race engineer Giampiero ‘GP’ Lambiase, which demonstrated the intensity of their pursuit of a perfectly-executed race.

Facing little competition from outside their half of the Red Bull garage, the pair ensure their operation remains razor-sharp, extracting the maximum pace at the minimum risk. Both have opportunities and threats on their radars, but occasionally differed over which to prioritise.

Inevitably those are the moments which get most attention. Team principal Christian Horner described the pair as sounding “like an old married couple” at times. But the rest of the time the back-and-forth between the duo is a textbook reference for how the driver-engineer operation should work.

Having started from pole position Verstappen easily dealt with Carlos Sainz Jnr and kept his lead. From then on, with Verstappen on the medium tyre compound and his rivals on softs, it was a matter of keeping the opposition at arm’s length.

Within little time Lambiase was telling Verstappen he didn’t need to lean on his tyres in the high-speed corners anymore and could start to manage them:

Lap: 1/66 VER: 1’23.935
LambiaseCar behind Sainz. Gap 0.8.
Lap: 3/66 VER: 1’20.499
LambiaseSettle in, Max.
Lap: 4/66 VER: 1’20.346
LambiaseIf anything the laps previous Max, Sainz was pushing turn three more than you. You’ve got margin to back out turn nine now. Likewise turn 14 this lap. Gap behind 1.8.
Race start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
The other 19 cars quickly became specks in Verstappen’s mirrors

The Circuit de Catalunya only has two straights of significant length where race engineers can convey lengthy messages to their drivers without interrupting them in the middle of a corner, when maximum concentration is needed. So when Lambiase had to describe an engine settings change to Verstappen, he made sure he heard it:

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Lap: 9/66 VER: 1’20.282
VerstappenEngine has a bit of weird engine braking, low speed. It’s not consistent.
LambiaseEngine 13…
VerstappenTurn five…
Lambiase(Talking over him) Engine one-three position five, one-three position five.
Lap: 10/66 VER: 1’20.334
LambiaseOkay. That last change on the PU, Max, should help those comments. Gap 4.6.

The pair began planning adjustments to Verstappen’s car at his first pit stop when he would change to a harder set of tyres and therefore need a steeper front wing angle to generate more downforce and grip.

Lap: 12/66 VER: 1’20.442
LambiaseMax, let us know if you’d like a bit more front, reduce diff at high speed.
VerstappenEr, yeah.
Lap: 15/66 VER: 1’20.282
VerstappenYeah next stint I need three clicks more wing.
LambiaseUnderstood, Max.
Lap: 17/66 VER: 1’20.344
VerstappenI’m struggling too much with the left-front compared to practice.
LambiaseUnderstood, Max. No immediate rush to be pushing at the moment.

Although team mate Sergio Perez had started back in 11th and was picking his way past most of the slower cars between them, Red Bull kept an eye on his performance relative to Verstappen’s:

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Lap: 22/66 VER: 1’19.869
LambiaseCurrently only deficits to Checo turn nine and 14.
Lap: 23/66 VER: 1’20.098
LambiaseGap 10 seconds. Can I have a tyre update please, Max.
VerstappenQuite inconsistent medium. Initially it was a lot the left-front that was struggling, now it’s more even.

Lambiase called Verstappen in for his first pit stop, onto hard tyres. Given how long he’d been able to take his first set of tyres, they were already thinking about switching to a softer set for the final stint:

Lap: 26/66 VER: 1’23.843
LambiaseOkay, Max, all you’ve got.
LambiaseBox and pit confirm Max.
Lap: 27/66 VER: 1’38.427
LambiaseOkay so introduce the tyre nicely, Max. We’ve given you more front wing balance so let us know about the high speed diff, if it’s a bit too on the nose.
VerstappenI’ll put it back up.
Lap: 28/66 VER: 1’18.707
LambiaseSo display five, position 10.
LambiaseOkay, so car behind is Hamilton, he pitted onto a new medium. Gap 10.8. Exactly the same approach please Max for this stint. Should open up options for our final stint.
Lap: 29/66 VER: 1’18.860
LambiaseSo fuel-corrected, Max, that’s one second faster and around three-tenths faster than the beginning of the race start.

The pair had a minor difference over how to optimise the car’s set-up later in the stint:

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Lap: 42/66 VER: 1’19.092
LambiaseOkay Max, thoughts on for this tyre?
VerstappenWell, not amazing. Let’s see a few more laps. I struggle a lot with like under braking the front is overheating.
LambiaseOkay, so bias offset available if you need it. Also, think about torque.
Lap: 45/66 VER: 1’19.104
LambiaseMax, just some signs of dragging rears very late braking. Just wondering whether we can…
VerstappenYeah, okay.
Lambiase…open the diff and go forwards on the offset, question?
VerstappenI just complained about the fronts overheating end of braking, how do you want me to solve that, than?
LambiaseSo yes, that was a recommendation. Just wondering whether we could open the diff, come back on the torque bias.

Verstappen was less happy with his car’s balance on the hard tyres, and was surprised to learn towards the end of the stint that he’d strayed beyond track limits twice. Doing so three times triggers a warning in the form of a black-and-white flag, and a fourth means an automatic five-second time penalty.

Not a great drama with a lead of 20 seconds-plus, but one which could put his win in jeopardy if there was a late Safety Car deployment, which is why the team took it seriously:

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Lap: 46/66 VER: 1’18.840
LambiaseOkay Max that’s your second warning for track limits. First one was turn nine, this one was turn five.
LambiaseTrack limits, two warnings.
Lap: 49/66 VER: 1’19.093
LambiaseAnd Max, front wing for this stint?
VerstappenEr, the same.
Lap: 51/66 VER: 1’18.768
VerstappenIt’s just like these hard tyres have no grip. I’m just sliding everywhere.
LambiaseUnderstood. Shouldn’t be too long, Max, in terms of stop.
Lap: 52/66 VER: 1’22.849
LambiaseOkay you can use up what’s left, Max.
LambiaseBox, Max.
VerstappenI’m in.

Soon after Verstappen switched to the soft tyres for his final stint he went outside of track limits again. Now Lambiase was genuinely concerned.

“He broke the track limits at turn five on one of two laps and then he did it again at 10 and he was very surprised,” said team principal Christian Horner after the race. “I think he didn’t realise there was a limit there. So his engineer was just informing him of one more strike and it’s a penalty and not to take any risks in the fastest lap.

“The relationship they have is one like an old married couple almost debating about which channel of television they should be watching. But Max was totally in control and he was aware of the risk and was still able to do the fastest lap quite comfortably with the tyres that he had on the car.”

Lap: 59/66 VER: 1’17.761
LambiaseOkay Max that was a third strike on track limits.
LambiaseTurn 10. You [unclear] black and white flag [unclear] Hamilton, no risks required Max.
Verstappen did not enjoy his car’s balance on the hard tyre compound

Verstappen insisted afterwards he had everything under control. “I went over the white line three times, it happens sometimes,” he said.

“Some tracks it’s a bit easier to do and I was struggling a little bit with the harder tyres to keep it within the white lines. once I had that last warning then I had to keep it within the white lines but it’s not an issue really.”

However Lambiase evidently feared it could become a problem when Verstappen began asking what the fastest lap of the race was, angling for the bonus point that came with it. The pair have had this conversation before and the engineer would have known that trying to talk him out of it was futile, but that didn’t stop him trying.

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Lap: 60/66 VER: 1’18.205
VerstappenWhat’s the fast lap?
LambiaseIt’s a 16.6, it was the first lap on a new soft for Checo with DRS so I wouldn’t worry about it, Max.
VerstappenWhat’s my fastest lap?
LambiaseYours is a 17.3. Like I say, you’ve been given a black-and-white flag, so we cannot afford anything.

There was more than a hint of resigned exasperation in Lambiase’s voice after Verstappen banged in the fastest lap. But just as Lambiase had been anxious to maximise their tyre preservation earlier in the race, Verstappen was no less intent on seizing every point available.

Lap: 61/66 VER: 1’16.330
Lap: 62/66 VER: 1’18.014
LambiaseMode seven please, Max, mode seven. It’s now five laps remaining.
LambiaseOkay. Now, can you bring it home within the white lines? Thank you.
VerstappenYeah. Yeah.

When the chequered flag fell, Horner couldn’t resist ribbing his driver over his flirtation with track limits.

Lap: 66/66 VER: 1’17.708
LambiaseOkay this is your final lap.
LambiaseWell controlled Max, another win.
VerstappenYeah good race that. These tyres are a lot better. A lot nicer to drive. Again very lovely result this.
HornerWell done Max that was mega. Very well controlled. Even though you went over the white lines a few times.
VerstappenYeah, just within the limit.
HornerVery well done. Very well controlled. Masterclass.
VerstappenYeah really good weekend so thank you very much everyone.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
The team celebrated Verstappen’s 40th win of his career at the scene of his first

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Spanish Grand Prix articles

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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2 comments on ““They’re like an old married couple”: How Lambiase guided Verstappen to 40th win”

  1. Dreamteam!

  2. Used to be Bono and Lewis’s lovely communication especially the Hammertime, not hearing that lately?

Comments are closed.