After crossing the line to win the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix, Max Verstappen had plenty to think about with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
It was his second win in front of a sold-out home crowd and moved him ever-closer to back-to-back World Championships, but neither of those were the front-and-centre of his thinking as he went on team radio to celebrate
Rather, his race engineer Lambiase got the plaudits, albeit in the shape of a very Verstappen dig at the Brit.
“And I think your rating went up GP by +2,” Verstappen said, referring to the race engineer’s F1 Manager 2022 rating.
“Hehe, I think you’re getting close to 90 now,” the Dutchman quipped, after a bewildered response from the pitwall.
But the pair’s success together is no joke. Lambiase has talked, cajoled and chided Verstappen through all of his triumphs in F1, and in 2022 Lambiase also stepped up to become the Red Bull‘s trackside engineer lead, taking over from another legendary engineer with the team – Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin.
Early life of Gianpiero Lambiase and his F1 beginnings
Despite his Mediterranean name, Lambiase was actually born in 1981 in London (one of several successful British-Italians in motorsport alongside Paul di Resta and Dario Franchitti) and supports Chelsea alongside his father.
Like Red Bull’s strategy guru Hannah Schmitz, he learned his trade at Cambridge but unlike his colleague that trade wasn’t anything to do with motorsport.
He was a trained actor and was reportedly the drummer for Torperstate, and indie band that finished runners-up in the MTV unsigned band awards in 2003.
However, he made his first steps in the world of F1 in 2005 with Jordan and never looked back from there.
He stayed with the Silverstone team as they transitioned through Midland, Spyker and finally Force India, where he was Giancarlo Fisichella‘s performance engineer in 2008 and 2009.
He was promoted in 2010 and became Vitantonio Liuzzi‘s race engineer, but only worked with the Italian for one season before Di Resta replaced him at the team.
Lambiase continued to work on that side of the garage, with the Scot for three seasons and then Sergio Perez for 2014 before he jumped ship to Red Bull.
There he was assigned as race engineer for their new signing Daniil Kvyat but the after just 23 races, Verstappen replaced the Kvyat to kickstart Lambiase‘s most successful partnership.
After 20 wins, 60 podiums, 13 pole positions and one world championship, the significance of that partnership wasn’t lost on Max Verstappen.
”I have said to him that I only work with him, as soon as he stops, I stop too,” Verstappen said at the end of 2021, speaking to Ziggo Sport.
“Helmut always thinks it’s very nice too. Of course, he is also listening on my side and he finds it very nice how we communicate with each other.
“Of course, we can be pretty strict with each other sometimes, but I want that too. He has to tell me when I’m being a jerk and I have to tell him. I always told him that. He can tell me that on the radio as well, but it’s been going really well lately.”
It’s not the first time Verstappen has praised Lambiase‘s direct approach. Though softly spoken – and sounding confusingly similar to Christian Horner on team radio – he’s never coddled his young charge.
Aged 18 when he made his Red Bull debut, Verstappen was prone to regular emotional outbursts that were always met with a firm response by Lambiase.
But both have acknowledged that honesty is the best policy and there’s been humourous moments aplenty in their relationship too, like when Verstappen reminded Lambiase to stay hydrated whilst cruising to victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
Lambiase‘s 2022 promotion to lead trackside engineer felt like a passing of the torch in more ways than one.
Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin vacated the position to take up a new role in the Red Bull Junior Team, though Lambiase has continued in his role with Verstappen.
Rocquelin was the voice that guided Sebastian Vettel to four world titles with Red Bull and it’s neat that his role was filled by the confidant of the team’s next great champion.
But according to Lambiase, both he and Verstappen are in it for the long haul.
“His long-standing commitment to the team also plays a part,” Lambiase said ahead of the 2022 French Grand Prix.
“He wants to be part of Red Bull for the long-term, he believes in us and in our work.”
With Verstappen contracted to stay in Milton Keynes until 2028, the only question now is how much more history the pair can make together.