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Who is the first person to appreciate Max Verstappen’s performance when he wins a race? It’s GP. Who bears the brunt of Verstappen’s outbursts on the radio? It’s GP. And who puts him in place whenever needed? Again it’s GP. But who is GP? And no, GP isn’t short for Grand Prix.

GP is none other than Gianpiero Lambiase, Verstappen’s race engineer. And the voice of calm (and occasional humor) to Max’s occasional anger (and jokes). But their relationship isn’t like any other driver-race engineer pairing. Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal, believes their relationship runs deeper.

Christian Horner sheds light on the relationship between Verstappen and Lambiase

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At the Spanish GP (read: Grand Prix), the two-time World Champion was chasing his third career Grand Slam—this includes getting pole position, winning the race, leading every lap, and driving the fastest lap of the race. With just five laps to go and a very healthy 20-second advantage on Hamilton in second, Verstappen practically had three of the four criteria in the bag. All he needed was the fastest lap. However, he had already been shown the black and white flag for exceeding track limits thrice.

via Reuters

He would’ve received a 5-second penalty if he had exceeded limits a fourth time. Although he had the margin, GP did not want him to take any risks. So when he asked GP (read: Gianpiero Lambiase) what his fastest lap was, he reminded Verstappen about the black and white flag. Despite this, the Dutchman put in the race’s fastest lap in the following lap. 

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The relationship between Verstappen and Lambiase is similar to that of an old married couple arguing about what to watch on television,” said Horner when asked about the disagreement between Max and GP. After Max did the fastest lap, despite GP telling him not to, GP not-so-subtly asked him to bring the car home without exceeding track limits. Horner also believes that GP is the only one who can get Max to listen to him. As quoted by SpeedWeek, Horner said, “The dynamic between the two is so intense that in between, you have to ask yourself who is supposed to be the driver and who is supposed to be the engineer here.”

Max Verstappen will retire from F1 when GP does

Team sports are all about loyalty. While F1 may not seem like a team sport—with every driver fending for themselves—it is, in fact, a team sport. Much like Michael Jordan hung up his Jordans (at least with the Chicago Bulls) when the Bulls’ head coach, Phil Jackson, was retiring, Verstappen has expressed multiple times that he’ll “only race if he’s wearing headphones. When he retires from F1, I’ll do it too.”

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via Reuters

GP and Max are both very straightforward people. And more importantly, they are “fundamentally honest with each other.” As a result, they are bound to have heated debates and disagreements from time to time—with GP pointing out Verstappen’s errors and missteps—but that just helps when things aren’t going too well on track. 

“We get along so well that there’s no need to apologize to each other after a heated debate. We have a great working relationship, and we push each other. It keeps us both on our toes,” Verstappen said, as quoted by SpeedWeek. 

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The relationship between a driver and their race engineer is crucial to the driver’s and the team’s success. It’s safe to say that Gianpiero Lambiase has played a vital role in Verstappen’s career and continues to do so. And when the time comes, and GP wants to step aside from F1, he can be sure Max will follow him. But given their relationship, the question remains. Will GP ever be ready to bow out from F1 before Verstappen? Or will he stay until his driver sees out his career and decides to retire?

Written by

Aditi Krishnan

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One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by

Akash Pandhare