Max Verstappen could have finished second at the British Grand Prix had he not been punted off the race track by Sebastian Vettel, according to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
Verstappen had just passed Vettel for third position when the Ferrari driver plunged into the back of his car at the penultimate corner on lap 38. Vettel later took full responsibility for the incident, which he put down to misjudging which way Verstappen was going to move to defend the position.
Both drivers continued — Verstappen dropped to fifth behind Red Bull teammate Pierre Gasly but did not need another stop; Vettel had to do an entire lap with a damaged car before pitting for repairs, dropping him to the back of the pack.
Without the incident, Verstappen would have been running third and well placed to capitalise on Valtteri Bottas’ late stop for new tyres in the closing laps.
“Obviously from our point of view it was very frustrating because it knocked Max off a guaranteed podium,” Horner said. “Which spot on the podium we don’t know. He certainly would have been second on track and then whether Valtteri would have been able to catch him or not, we’d have had to wait and see. So that was very frustrating.”
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He added: “I don’t know if we quite had the race pace for Mercedes [over the whole race]. I think we could have beaten Bottas today with the way things… he would have had track position to Bottas. I don’t know if Bottas was managing a problem in that final part there but he would have certainly had track position and it would have been down to Valtteri to pass him.”
Verstappen managed to drag his damaged car to the finish, something the Dutchman had not thought was possible.
“I honestly don’t know how I brought that car to the finish,” Verstappen said. “My power steering failed, my seat was out, so all the time on the braking I was moving forward. In the high-speed corners I was moving left to right and then the car was really neutral. When I jumped out of the car the whole floor and rear was destroyed so happy to finish fifth.”
Horner was amazed to see Verstappen make the chequered flag.
“It was remarkable the car held together, to keep going with the damage he had was quite incredible,” he said. “At least he managed to finish the race and get some points out of it.”
Vettel was given two penalty points on his superlicence for the incident, meaning he has now accumulated six in the last 12 months. A driver gets an automatic one-race ban if he ever reaches 12 points in a 12-month spell.
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