Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen was on “the lap of the year” before his crash at the end of qualifying at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and is worried about gearbox damage that could force the team to take a grid penalty for a replacement.
Verstappen had set the fastest first two sectors on his final lap and looked set to take pole position with a special effort before he hit the wall on the exit of the final corner, having gone in too deep. The contact damaged the right-rear corner of Verstappen’s car and forced him to stop.
Quickest in the first two sectors of his final flying lap 🚀
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 4, 2021
“It was looking like the lap of the year,” Horner told Sky Sports. “It’s a great shame. He just grabbed the front into the last corner there. You’re trying to keep the momentum… He could see on his dash he was more than a quarter of a second up going into the corner and unfortunately he’s run out of road.
“Pretty brutal, let’s hope the gearbox isn’t damaged and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.
“He didn’t say too much. He said he touched the wall and that was that. It was a great shame as it was a mighty, mighty lap. We’re on the back foot here and was pulling something very special out of the bag. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be — hopefully it isn’t a gearbox penalty as that would be especially brutal.”
A gearbox penalty would drop Verstappen five positions on the grid, but a lack of a penalty for Lewis Hamilton earlier on Saturday — when he was alleged to have ignored double waved yellow flags in FP3 — left Horner bemused.
“We’ll have a good look at it. It feels a little inconsistent with what we’ve seen two weeks ago,” he said. “We have the right to an appeal. We’ll have a look at the information we have, we haven’t looked at it that closely. These decisions are so late, the team management have to focus on the qualifying. So we’ll have a look and see. One thing that we desperately want is just consistency.”
However, Red Bull did not lodge an appeal before the window to do so expired.