In the last of our writers’ selections of their favourite pieces of The Race’s 2021 content, Scott Mitchell picks an unusual analysis of one of the season’s Red Bull/Mercedes flashpoints – Max Verstappen’s damage from the Valtteri Bottas triggered Hungarian Grand Prix crash
I really liked this because of the work my colleague Luke Hinsull put in to bring it to life.
Images were key and the lazy thing would have been to just steal someone’s Instagram post. Instead, creatively working with what we had and reimagining proper images of the bargeboards turned a fairly route one ‘man had damage’ story into a proper explainer.
Max Verstappen’s lowly finish in the Hungarian Grand Prix cost him the lead of the Formula 1 championship but reaching the chequered flag, let alone scoring points, required a huge effort with “half a car”.
Verstappen was hit hard by a blameless Lando Norris at the first corner at the Hungaroring, after Valtteri Bottas had locked up and slammed into the rear of the McLaren.
The RB16B somehow survived the collision without terminal suspension or wheel damage, but the right-hand side took a serious beating and Verstappen had to return to the pits under the ensuing red flag with what looked like a small fence hanging off his car – because almost the entire bargeboard arrangement had been broken.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said after the race that the damage was so significant that “I should think [Haas driver] Mick Schumacher had more downforce than Max”, and also described his driver as having to battle to the finish with “half a car”. Verstappen ended up only ninth in the classification after Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification, with title rival Lewis Hamilton second.
Clear, side-on images of the damaged half of Verstappen’s are hard to come by, but even in normal photos of Verstappen on-track after the incident the consequences are clear to see.
The image below is a closely cropped version of a photo of Verstappen during the grand prix that has been edited to highlight the missing elements of the bargeboards and floor.
But that image alone isn’t enough to properly understand how much was missing on Verstappen’s car.
For that we need to get creative by drawing from a combination of photographs captured during the race and afterwards, to compare what we know was missing to what is meant to be there.
First, here is the Red Bull arrangement in full. Everything in red in this image was missing from Verstappen’s car.
Within that are the vertical element of the shoulder vane (1), all the horizontal slat flow conditioners (2), both boomerang-style elements (3), all bar three of the frontal flow conditioners (4), the front of the floor (5) and the inboard vertical turning vanes (6).
This is a huge amount of aerodynamic performance to lose and explains why Verstappen had such limited overall performance, finishing 10th on the road while title rival Lewis Hamilton – who was behind him after the race restarted – was able to get up to third.
It also will have accelerated his tyre use, which is an important factor to consider beyond the tangible laptime cost.
And there is one more important element to consider. All this damage was only on one side of the car, which helps understand why Verstappen was left with not just a slower Red Bull but a hugely inconsistent one.
Based on what we know was missing from the RB16B, we have edited an overhead shot of Verstappen leaving his garage earlier this weekend to better visualise not only how much was missing but just how lop-sided that left his car.
And we’ve also done a bit of deconstructive surgery below. The top half of the image is a shot that shows the bargeboard arrangement in full. Below it, we’ve edited the picture to remove the damaged parts we’ve identified in other images.
“I was carrying a lot of damage on the car after the incident and it was super difficult to drive with, there was a lot of oversteer and understeer from the downforce loss,” said Verstappen.
“Of course it’s really disappointing to only score one point but on the other hand I was incredibly lucky to continue after the crash so it was a surprise to score a point at all.”