Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has explained the problems that saw Max Verstappen fall away from the race lead at Silverstone.
The reigning World Champion had just stormed into the lead of the British Grand Prix when, moments later, his pace suddenly dropped as he encountered an issue with his RB18.
The problem saw the two Ferrari drivers come back past him down the Hangar Straight and through Stowe, while Verstappen dived into the pits as he suspected a puncture on his car.
However, rejoining the track, Verstappen quickly radioed in to say the feeling of instability had not disappeared – the Dutch driver then being told the team believed the problem to be bodywork-related and not critical to the operation of the car.
While Verstappen was not in any danger of retiring from the race as a result, his dramatic drop in pace meant a combative drive was required to secure a points place. This he managed, with Verstappen rescuing a seventh-place finish.
Having missed out on a potential win as a result of the issue, Horner explained afterwards Verstappen had hit some debris that destroyed the underside of the RB18 – even more critical in F1 2022 due to the floor being used as a downforce generator since the switch to ground-effect.
“He had great pace today, he was able to get the lead, was starting to build a lead, and then hit some debris,” Horner explained to Sky F1.
“It did a huge amount of damage to the underside of the car and he lost probably close to half the downforce from the floor.”
Verstappen had radioed in to say he felt a similar issue developing on the front end of the RB18, with Horner believing the damage was getting worse as the race progressed.
“I think the damage just got worse and then he went on to the hard tyres that made it even harder for him,” he said.
“But then, [with] the Safety Car, we put on a set of softs and he fought like a lion. I’ve never known him to fight as hard for a seventh place but that could just make the difference at the end of the championship.”
With Verstappen not losing many points to his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez or Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc as they secured second and fourth places respectively, the reigning champion was able to summon a smile as he spoke to the media after climbing from his car.
Asked about whether the issue had been critical, Verstappen explained how it had developed from his perspective.
“Critical means the car isn’t able to run any more,” he told Sky F1.
“I had just got into the lead because of Carlos’ moment. A few corners later, there was a piece of debris on the racing line and as soon as I arrived there, I couldn’t drastically turn left or right because you can’t do that in that kink, so I tried to hit it like head-on.
“Normally, it would just explode or just get pushed away, but this time it went into my floor and it completely destroyed the whole left-hand side of my floor.
“Within two corners, I felt like the car was falling apart and I thought I had a puncture, which wasn’t the case but even after that the car was really a handful to drive.
“But I think overall to finish seventh with that car was still a good result. It’s better than zero points, that’s for sure.”
An unlucky afternoon 😤
We were on it from the beginning of the race, after getting of the line great on both occasions.
After picking up debri my floor was severely damaged and we struggled throughout the race. I gave it my all for P7 and collected important points. pic.twitter.com/9ZilfVeqEm
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) July 3, 2022