Max Verstappen opens up on feelings towards engineer Lambiase after Belgium row

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Max Verstappen has opened up on his relationship with Gianpiero Lambiase after the Red Bull star’s tense exchange with his race engineer during the Belgian Grand Prix caused a stir. The Dutchman continued his impressive dominance over the rest of the field with an eighth successive victory at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, but Verstappen’s radio messages with Lambiase suggested all may not be well between the pair after some strong words were shared.

Verstappen unleashed an expletive-ridden rant during qualifying after squeezing through to the Q3 shootout in 10th position, before posting the fastest lap time. On that occasion, Verstappen and Lambiase shared a joke after qualifying as they celebrated finishing eight-tenths clear of Charles Leclerc.

Despite starting sixth with a five-place grid penalty due to a changed gearbox, Verstappen managed to fight his way through the field before passing Sergio Perez and etched out a 22-second gap to the Mexican as he crossed the finish line.

With no competition out front, the 25-year-old asked Lambiase if he could burn out his soft tyres and pit again, suggesting that the team could practice their pitstops given their healthy lead. Lambiase, who had repeatedly shut down Verstappen’s other requests, flatly refused again as Verstappen made his dissatisfaction known. He also twice told Verstappen to ‘follow my instructions’ and urged him to ‘use his head better’ during the race.

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But after the race, the two-time world champion explained that it was part of their relationship and insisted they were joking 50 per cent of the time.

“Probably 50-50 in the messages,” Verstappen said when asked if he was being serious with Lambiase. “I know that the team doesn’t like to do another stop [during the race], but I like to mention it so they might get a bit nervous.

“I like the response of ‘no, no, we are not doing that today’. It’s fine. We [he and Lambiase] know each other very well and we have a very good relationship.”

He later added: “We were having a good time but, of course, he had to act serious… It’s very important. Without him, we won’t have these kind of results, so it’s a team effort. And we know exactly what we need from each other. It works really well like this, for me during the race.”

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The tetchy nature of their squabbles on the team radio has forced Christian Horner this season to clarify that there is no friction between the two, with the Red Bull team principal describing them as an ‘old married couple’.

And Verstappen has doubled down on his closeness with Lambiase – who has been with the team since 2015 and became their head of engineering in 2022 – by suggesting he would be upset if the team decided to replace the British-Italian engineer.

“I think it’s very important, the relationship with your race engineer,” he said. “I find it always a really important part of your performance, and not only your race engineer but everyone close around you, your performance engineer and these kinds of things.

“Of course, over the years you build up much more a relationship and you know each other better, so yeah, for sure, if he would be removed then that would definitely not be ideal at all.”

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