Max Verstappen clinched his 50th Grand Prix victory and 15th of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. However, the victory did not come without a hitch. The Red Bull Racing driver encountered an unexpected and “rare” brake problem that plagued him from the start of the race.
Throughout the race, Verstappen was visibly frustrated, telling his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase not to speak while he was in the braking zones. Despite leading the field in the final laps, Verstappen saw Lewis Hamilton close the gap to within two seconds – before Hamilton was eventually disqualified.
Harsh radio exchange
Lambiase’s attempts to provide Verstappen with vital race information were met with stern admonitions, largely due to the timing of his interventions as Verstappen attempted to manage his braking issues.
“Aww mate, the brakes are so sh!t compared to yesterday,” Verstappen shouted over the team radio, only for Lambiase to reply with a simple “Understood“.
Lambiase later attempted to inform Verstappen of his pace in relation to Checo (Sergio Perez), but Verstappen interrupted him with another frustrated shout, “Yeah, I know mate, the brakes are just st!t”.
As Hamilton closed the gap in the closing laps of the race, Lambiase tried to keep Verstappen informed. However, the driver was in no mood for dialogue during his braking manoeuvres, leading to a tense exchange in which Verstappen shouted: “Please, no talking while braking!”.
In the post-race press conference, Verstappen played down the heated exchange as a “polite” request for better timing from Lambiase. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner laughed at the interaction between his “bickering employees”,
Red Bull attribute problem to new brake pads
Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko attributed the irregularity to new brake pads on Verstappen’s RB19. Marko’s revelation raises questions about the impact of such changes on race performance, especially given the rarity of the problem as highlighted by Verstappen.
Speaking to the media Verstappen described the situation: “I really struggled a lot with my brakes compared to [the sprint race]. It was very inconsistent and continued throughout the race. It was a big factor because I never really had a lot of confidence when braking,”
He went on to explain the strategic decisions made by the team that enabled him to maintain his lead. “As a team we pitted at the right time and that allowed us to work our way forward,” he said.
Questions over race performance
Verstappen also stressed that the brake problem was the only thing that had changed from the sprint race, making it a unique and particularly challenging factor in his race performance. “It made the race very difficult and I couldn’t get a grip on it,” he commented.
The problem raised concerns about the car’s hard tyres and their performance.
“The hard tyre was not very good today, but the gap was just big enough and there were not too many laps left,” Verstappen concluded.
In a sport like Formula One, where reliability and consistency are paramount, such a strange and infrequent problem can send ripples through a team’s strategy and performance.
Despite the obstacles, Verstappen’s skill and the Red Bull team’s strategy secured a landmark victory, but the unexpected brake problem is likely to be the subject of intense scrutiny as the team looks ahead to future races.
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