Despite the red flag offering Red Bull the chance to effect repairs – which included taping up holes and bending pipework back in to shape – in the end some damage could not be fixed in time before the race itself got properly going.
“It was just too much,” said Horner, who added that Verstappen “had half a car”.
But while from far away television cameras Verstappen’s RB16B did not look too badly out of shape, it was only after the race that the extent of what he was battling again came to light.
An intriguing close-up photo posted on Formula 1’s own Instagram feed highlighted how Verstappen had been missing almost the entire suite of aerodynamic components on the right side of his car.
The scale of the damage heightened suggestions that without the opportunity offered by the red flag repairs, Verstappen would almost certainly have been forced to retire.
Horner himself indicated that internal damage to the coolers housed within the sidepod would have been a race-ending factor.
“The temperatures were off the scale and they had to straighten pipes and fix the right side as much as possible in very limited time,” he explained.
This scenario raises further questions about the state of his engine.
Although were no concerns immediately after the race, it is not impossible that the crash could have longer-term implications on the state of his power unit, which had been fitted fresh on race morning after Honda discovered a crack in the unit salvaged from his British Grand Prix wreck.
Red Bull’s focus on repairing the cooler and pipework had a big impact on how much of the bodywork could be fixed too, with only the sidepod bodywork replaced, as it had been punctured during the accident.
The splitter and floor could only be simply secured, tidied up and their edges taped.
The remaining bargeboard and sidepod deflector elements were trimmed back, so that they didn’t disintegrate and create more debris.
Verstappen’s bargeboard was completely destroyed in the first-lap hit from Norris
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
The red section shown on the illustration above was completely missing when the car arrived back in the pitlane, but the section in yellow had to be stripped away and the edge of the skyscraper deflector taped up.
This area of the car is very sensitive and offers a huge amount of performance, with teams constantly updating the bargeboard cluster, floor and sidepod deflectors.
Missing so much bodywork not only strips the car of much-needed downforce, but also makes it incredibly unstable, with Verstappen commenting that his hastily-repaired car was “super difficult to drive with”.
“There was a lot of oversteer and understeer from the downforce loss,” he explained.
While Verstappen may have been disappointed with recovering to just a 10th place finish – provisionally ninth pending the outcome of Sebastian Vettel’s appeal – at the end of the title battle he knows that a single point can make all the difference in who lifts the world championship trophy.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool