Max Verstappen's race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase has played down the threat of the triple World Champion quitting Formula 1 if he was to leave Red Bull - but admitted he could not work with another driver.
Lambiase has been Verstappen's race engineer since his promotion to the senior Red Bull squad for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, famously going onto win and become the youngest winner of a Grand Prix.
Since then, Lambiase has engineered Verstappen to a total of 51 wins and all three titles, becoming a well-known voice over the radio for his forthright and blunt exchange of views with the Dutchman.
Verstappen has previously indicated that he would be prepared to leave Grand Prix racing if Lambiase himself were to quit, but the former Force India engineer does not believe that to be the case.
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Honesty key to Lambiase and Verstappen
"It's nice that he says that, but there is no way that his F1 career is over if I would walk out the door here tomorrow," Lambiase explained in a rare interview with De Telegraaf.
"If we would no longer work together, I would take up another challenge.
"It would not be fair to try to imitate with a new driver what I have done with Max since 2016. This is something very special for me and it's not going to happen again."
The relationship between Verstappen and Lambiase has been characterised by the engineer 'snapping back' at Verstappen at times when the driver is unhappy - notably in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix earlier this year, when a frustrated Verstappen complained about the run plan in Q2, leading to Lambiase to publicly put the decisions for the Q3 plan in his hands.
The back and forth across the radio can seem harsh at times, but Lambiase believes this is precisely part of the successful relationship the two enjoy.
"He's to the point, that's how he was raised, and he's not looking to walk all over you either," Lambiase added.
"Honesty and being yourself are crucial to being productive and efficient. If you start wondering whether you should say something because otherwise he might get angry, you are working on a lost cause.
"You have to be able to trust each other blindly and also keep an eye on the mental and emotional aspect.
"It's not just about the car, it's also about how someone handles their talent and emotions."
This is an area singled out by Lambiase, highlighting the experience and growing pains of 2017 and 2018 in Verstappen's march to back-to-back-back titles from 2021.
"In those years he learned a lot from the difficult moments, to the point where in 2021, he understood very well that above all, he had to finish races and that he could not afford DNFs [to win the title]," said Lambiase.
"With that title in his pocket, today he is very good at judging how much risk he has to take. He also knows now that he doesn't always have to be the 105% version of himself."