Horner: Verstappen win a ‘slam dunk’ before damage

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, looking very unhappy post-race. England, July 2022.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, looking very unhappy after the race at Silverstone. England, July 2022.

Picking up damage to the underside of his Red Bull, Max Verstappen lost a “slam dunk” win at Silverstone, says team boss Christian Horner.

Verstappen indeed looked in prime position for a third win in succession when he took the British GP lead away from Carlos Sainz, but his race would unravel from there.

The Dutchman would slow, allowing both Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari through, causing Verstappen to pit with what he believed was a puncture.

It turned out to be bodywork damage picked up from hitting some debris, which looking at TV footage may well have come from Leclerc’s car which had a broken front wing due to earlier contact with Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull.

But the performance loss as a result of the damage meant that Verstappen was unable to contend for victory or even the podium from that point on.

Asked by Channel 4 if the debris responsible had come from Leclerc’s car, Horner replied: “I haven’t seen the debris yet, there was so much going on, a bit of debris out there and unfortunately really unlucky for Max, because I think he would have been a slam dunk today.

“But it was a great race. It was an exciting race.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, pits. Silverstone, July 2022.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen makes a pitstop during the British Grand Prix. Silverstone, July 2022.

Red Bull decided to switch Verstappen to the hard tyre, a move which backfired as Verstappen complained that it was like “driving on ice”.

A Safety Car later in the race would allow for a switch to the softs as Red Bull rolled the dice, but ultimately P7 was Verstappen’s finishing position.

Explaining the decision to put Verstappen on the hard tyre, Horner said: “The race suddenly changed, we’re suddenly racing [Sebastian] Vettel and [Mick] Schumacher and guys that we’re not usually around, so it was a matter of then adapting to ‘right, okay, what’s our fastest route to the end of the race? We’ve got to cover those guys’.

“So we went onto the hard [tyre] and the plan was to go to the end of the race, and then the Safety Car came out and it was like ‘well Max is really struggling out there, chuck a set of softs on and let’s see what we can do’.

“And he made a couple of passes and a great restart and P7 was probably the hardest P7 he’s ever fought for today.”

Verstappen certainly was not a happy bunny on the radio as his race fell apart in the wounded RB18, the team assuring him that the car could continue, but the full level of performance would not be there.

But Horner said that it is a given that Verstappen will always be putting “110%” into every lap, so could understand his frustration, but the performance was “one of his best drives” in Formula 1.

“We just work with him and you know with Max you’re getting 110% every lap,” said Horner. “And he’s frustrated because the car’s not able to do what it was able to do a few laps previously.

“But he recallibrates pretty quickly and he got every ounce out of the performance when you look at the amount of downforce that he was missing today, that was right up there with one of his best drives.”

Verstappen came under late pressure from Schumacher in the Haas, who was getting surprisingly punchy considering that he was just moments away from scoring points in Formula 1 for the first time.

Ultimately though the pair remained in their same positions as they crossed the line.

Reflecting on that late battle for Verstappen, Horner said: “He was fighting as hard for seventh as if it was a win and I think that every point counts at the end of this Championship, and who knows, that might just be the difference by the time we get to the end of the year.

“So they all count and damage was limited, I think we only lost six points to Charles. Only 10 I think in the Constructors’ as well. So for the kind of day that we had, the way it was looking at one point in the race, that’s a great recovery.”


Highlights from the British Grand Prix

Put simply, it was a quite remarkable British Grand Prix on Sunday.