Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen feels the floor damage in F1 US GP hindered his chances in catching Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for second.
Verstappen crossed the line third in F1 US GP at Circuit of the Americas and was largely happy with the result by utilising a two-stop strategy, where he started on the mediums before switching to hards and then strapping back on the medium for the final blast.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, on a similar strategy, kept Verstappen behind and managed to pass the one-stopper Hamilton. The Dutchman, however, narrowly missed out on second as yellow flags for stricken Haas of Kevin Magnussen in the latter stages hampered his run.
The Dutchman couldn’t utilise the sector to his advantage which helped Hamilton to keep second. Post-race, Verstappen revealed that the yellow flags were the least of his concerns, as floor damage picked up at the start, affected him throughout the race.
“If there was no yellow flag then we would have had Hamilton, it is a shame but that happens sometimes in racing,” said Verstappen to TV media. “It was a good race still, as we were the only ones to keep little bit of a fight with Mercedes.
“I found out after the race that I looked at the car and I was missing a big piece of my floor in front of the rear tyre, so that definitely cost me a lot of lap time. I can’t explain how it happened as I didn’t touch anyone [in the grand prix].
“The damage on the front wing endplate, though, was at Turn 1 at the start with Valtteri on the exit. They first thought was that the front wing was affecting my balance but when I looked at the floor, I was pretty sure that the front wing wasn’t influencing as much.
“It was most certainly the floor. It is a critical area on the car and basically, it was missing on one side and especially on a aero track like this, it is quite painful but still to be in the fight with the Mercedes cars was good achievement for us.”
Team principal Christian Horner confirmed the floor damage as well but couldn’t ascertain how much they were losing. “Verstappen had a front wing endplate damage with a touch at the Turn 1 and then we have had some rear floor damage,” he said.
“I don’t know if that was the result of that or running wide at the first turn. But from about lap five onwards we saw a drop in load and there is a big hole in the floor that is missing. It was left hand side endplate, I am not sure what side of the floor.
“It is difficult to quantify the performance loss, but definitely it made us slightly heavier on deg because the balance shift was quite significant. All in all we elected to go the two stop, Valtteri covered early on and for us the two stop was a better race than the one stop.
“He was obviously closing down Lewis at the end of the race there as Lewis looked like he was running out of tyres and then unfortunately the combination of backmarkers and yellow flags, it muted the race right in the last couple of laps so P3 was the optimum.”
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The story was written by Duncan Leahy and edited by Darshan Chokhani