Christian Horner revealed that an AlphaTauri endplate was the reason for Max Verstappen's floor damage, which scuppered his chances of winning yesterday's British Grand Prix.
After initially making a perfect launch at the original start, Verstappen lost ground at the second start, but the Dutchman remained hot on race leader Carlos Sainz's heels until Lap 10, when the reigning World champion retook the lead after the Spaniard ran wide on the exit of chapel.
But Verstappen's lead didn't last long as he suddenly slowed on the hanger straight, causing him to make an earlier than scheduled pitstop, dropping him out of the top three. Horner later confirmed to selected media outlets, including MotorLAT, that the early stop was precautionary and that no puncture occurred.
"It wasn't a puncture; he reported it was so bad it felt like a puncture. On Lap 11, he hit a piece of debris from an AlphaTauri from the incident they had, so he did the race with a modified floor with a piece of AlphaTauri endplate stuck under the bottom of the car. He lost an enormous amount of downforce.
"On the medium tyre, he was going fine; I think you could see that he was quicker than Carlos and was just not wanting to take too much out of the tyre too early and worked his way up to the back of him, made the pass and unfortunately, literally one lap later hit the debris, so he then reported a puncture, but we couldn't see it on the data, but you've got to trust the driver, so we pitted him precautionary, and Sainz said when following him bits were coming out of the back of Max's car."
"We could see there was a massive loss of downforce, close to twenty per cent," Horner continued. "Of course because it was underneath, there was nothing obvious. It wasn’t like half the floor was hanging off. It was difficult to actually understand it initially which was why Max reported a puncture but it was actually a major ‘update’ that had gone on.”
When the safety car came out in the race's latter stages, Red Bull rolled the dice and boxed Verstappen for a set of fresh soft tyres. The gamble paid off, and the Dutchman clung to seventh despite Mick Schumacher's best efforts.
"We then pitted (him) for the hard tyre to get to the end of the race; we felt that was our best way of finishing P7, and he struggled particularly with a wounded car on the harder compound of tyre, even more so when we got to the safety car it was a question of we got nothing to lose we'll either finish out of the points or put a set of softs and see what we can do, and he actually managed to pass a couple of cars, and he fought hard to retain that seventh place."