Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen says his sudden loss of pace in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was down to the side of his RB18’s floor getting “ruptured ” by debris.
Verstappen had just passed Carlos Sainz – who had made an error – for the lead when he had to slow dramatically and come into the pits, reporting a possible puncture to his team.
Yet the issue proved more severe, and Verstappen was never comfortable with the car for the rest of the race, lacking rear downforce and describing his RB18 as “100% broken”.
At one point, it looked like he may even risk falling to as low as 10th – running eighth and being hounded by the two Haas cars behind him.
But the late safety car for Esteban Ocon’s fuel pump failure offered a reprieve – and Verstappen was narrowly able to fight off Mick Schumacher in the end to claim seventh place and six points.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen revealed that he’d struck a chunk of debris coming through the Aintree corner, which caused his race to unravel.
The debris, team principal Christian Horner confirmed later, had come from the collision between Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly – the two drivers of Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri.
“I didn’t ask yet how much [downforce] I lost, but, I already spoke to Carlos, he said ‘what happened, you were just losing parts!’ when I was in the lead, and when I jumped out of the car I had a look under the floor and the whole left hand side underneath is completely ruptured,” Verstappen said. “Like, everything is gone.
“Because, once I got into the lead after Carlos made a mistake, like a few corners later in Turn 5 there was a piece of carbon, but by the time I was there it was on the racing line, I could not drastically move left or right, so I tried to just hit it head on, but instead it just went into my floor and it just destroyed everything.
“It felt like a puncture because suddenly I had no balance, a lot of oversteer, like the car was hopping a lot.
“So then of course we decided to box, and even after that the car was just completely a handful to drive.”
Verstappen made a few balance changes during the race that alleviated, but never really solved, the situation.
“The tough bit was just to try and find a nice, let’s say, aero balance, because of the massive loss of mainly rear load, to try and back off the front wing, but of course when you do that you lose overall load as well.
“So that wasn’t ideal on the hard tyre set, so for the last set we went up [on the front wing] again to try and give a bit more performance in low speed.
“But yeah, it was very tough – but at the end I think seventh place was still a good result with the damage I had.”
Red Bull had calmed Verstappen down during the race by telling him the damage carried no further risk beyond worsened performance, which looked to have proved accurate.
“As soon as GP [race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase] says it’s safe to drive, I mean, he would never put me in danger.
“I know when they tell me it’s bodywork damage, and we can see the losses in downforce, then it’s fine. I know there is damage, but if there is like suspension damage it’s a different story. Luckily it wasn’t that.”