Christian Horner has praised Max Verstappen's combative drive to seventh place at the British GP despite the Red Bull driver's car damage woes.
The reigning World Champion's hopes of a second victory at Silverstone were dashed after his car ran over some AlphaTauri debris and lost performance.
After pitting for an assumed puncture, Verstappen struggled for performance even more on the harder tyre compound.
A Safety Car period allowed Verstappen to switch to Soft tyres and seemingly put up more of a defence, which included a last-lap battle with Haas driver Mick Schumacher.
Speaking after the race, Horner believed that Verstappen's firm-but-legal defence was an important statement in their World Championship ambitions.
"We put a set of softs on his car and he fought like a lion," Horner told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"I've never known him fight as hard for a seventh place - that could just make the difference at the end of the championship."
Red Bull escaped British GP relatively unscathed
The Red Bull team boss also expressed his relief at not losing much ground to Ferrari despite a bad day for Red Bull.
"We had a good car here this weekend. It's frustrating not to get the victory with either driver," Horner continued.
"The damage for us in the championship; we've extended Checo's [Perez] lead over Charles [Leclerc], Charles has only gained six points on Max, and in the Constructors' we've only conceded 10 points.
"So considering the day that we've had, that's not too bad."
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Downforce loss of "20%" meant P7 was maximum
A piece of debris from the ill-fated Alpha Tauri battle was blamed for the RB18's loss of performance.
An endplate from the front wing of an Alpha Tauri was caught in the floor of Verstappen's car, which dramatically altered the performance of the car.
Horner added that he believed the loss of downforce was "close to 20%" and that a recovery to seventh place was the maximum that could be achieved.
"We could see there was a massive loss of downforce, and then you rely on looking at trying to identify what's causing the issue, but because it was underneath we couldn't see it. It wasn't like half the fall was hanging off," added Horner.
"To be honest, the P7 was going to be the absolute optimum that he could do today.
"He didn't have the pace of Alonso or Norris with a car that badly damaged. The [performance] hit that he took was massive and actually his restart was very, very impressive."
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