Verstappen reveals pre-race fuss with Lambiase over RB20 set-up


Max Verstappen revealed that a pre-race disagreement between himself and Red Bull race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase regarding the front-wing setting on his RB20 was behind the tense radio exchange between the two during Sunday's Japanese GP.

Verstappen returned to the top step of the podium at Suzuka, the Dutchman dominating proceedings and leading a Red Bull 1-2, with teammate Sergio Perez finishing over 12 seconds adrift.

But it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing from the outset for the three-time world champion, with the latter complaining about the behavior of his car during his first stint, with understeer turning into oversteer as the laps unfolded.

Ahead of his first tyre change, Verstappen and Lambiase discussed over the radio a possible tweak to the RB20’s front-wing level.

“Yeah, maybe one or two clicks less is okay,” Verstappen said.

“I won't say I told you so, but understood. Thank you,” Lambiase replied.

The race engineer’s response, though seemingly smug, hinted at a prior disagreement over the front wing setup, which Verstappen explained after the race.

Interestingly, the Dutchman admitted that the exchange, while critical, also served as a motivator, pushing him to extract more performance from the car.

“We had, not an argument, but he said, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ I was pretty sure and it turned out to be wrong!” Verstappen explained. “But he was right.

"In a way it also fires me up because I am like, ‘even though I am not entirely happy with the balance now I will still try to be as consistent as I can be without shouting back at him.’

“We have a great relationship and it works well like that.”

Verstappen had enjoyed a relatively low-key start to his race weekend on Friday. But set-up changes ahead of qualifying went a long way towards improving his car’s balance and handling.

“I was not happy up until qualifying but we did make some changes,” he said. “I cannot go into detail on that but it did help today and it made it a lot nicer to drive and on the car control.”

It’s not unusual for Verstappen and Lambiase to bicker over the radio. The Red Bull race engineer has a reputation for being tough and holding his ground when calling the shots on a setting or a run plan.

But at the end of the day, despite the odd radio spat the engineer and the Red Bull charger, the dynamic collaboration between Verstappen and Lambiase has been tremendously successful.

“That is the old married couple coming out again!” mocked Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko after Sunday’s race.

“There was a very long discussion before about how many clicks of the front wing we had to change. Max insisted and Gianpiero was happy when it turned out that he was right in the end.

“Max and his race engineer are very experienced, also together with the data engineer. They know what to do and they know what Max likes.

“It was more or less the right decision, we just had to make a small adjustment after the first stint, so during the first stop.”

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