On the face of things, it looked like Verstappen had a very mediocre race. He lost out at the start, looked ragged in his attempts to pass Kevin Magnussen, performed an awesome 360° spin, and then failed to make an impression on Fernando Alonso’s McLaren in the second half of the race to come home a lowly sixth.
As it turns out, it wasn’t because he’s forgotten how to drive an F1 car over the winter, but because his RB14 sustained some early damage.
Whilst pursuing Magnussen, he ran a bit wide coming out of the fast chicane where the kerbs are a bit bumpy and damaged his diffuser. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said:
“As soon as he was behind the Haas, knowing how tough it is to overtake around here, he absolutely went for it, got a bit wide I think in Turn 11/12 on lap six and that damaged the rear diffuser and created a significant imbalance for him, which he did incredibly well to manage for the rest of the race.
“But that then caught him out at Turn 1. He was getting intermittent loss of rear downforce in mid-corners, but [there was] nothing he could do about it.”
Occasional losses of downforce at the rear? Well, that explains all the sliding around he was doing!
Despite the damage, however, Horner admitted that Verstappen’s biggest issue was losing the position to Magnussen in the first place.
“I think more damage was probably done at the first corner, because as we saw today even with a car advantage to overtake is impossible here. He was having a pretty rough ride with it, but he did incredibly well to be pushing Fernando as hard as he was at the end.
“Even with a pace advantage, Lewis couldn’t pass Sebastian, Daniel couldn’t pass Kimi, Bottas couldn’t pass anybody, that was the way it was.”