Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says a damaged wheel rim on Lewis Hamilton's car would have led to the Briton's retirement from the British Grand Prix had the race not been red flagged.
Hamilton's front-left wheel was hit by Max Verstappen's rear right as the two drivers collided at Copse corner on the opening lap of Sunday's race.
With the Dutchman's Red Bull heavily planted in the outside tyre barrier, race control wisely decided to red flag the event to allow for the car's safe recovery and for marshals to conduct repair work on the barrier.
Mercedes' subsequent examination of Hamilton's W12 revealed very little damage, save for the car's left front wheel rim.
"We'd failed the rim where we had the contact at the front left, so that would've been a DNF had it not been red-flagged," Shovlin said after the race.
"But the rest of the damage was actually remarkably little. It was a tyre temperature sensor that had got knocked loose, so it was waggling around but, amazingly, it's the least important part on the front wing and it was the only one that broke."
A 10-second penalty for causing a collision handed to Hamilton after the race was restarted and was served during his swap from the medium to the hard tyre, 25 laps from the end of the race.
Hamilton rejoined in fifth position, just behind McLaren's Lando Norris but 35 seconds adrift from race leader Charles Leclerc.
At that point, Shovlin was informed by Mercedes' strategists that Hamilton would catch the Ferrari driver with two laps to go, but it took some time for Hamilton to convince himself that a win was on the cards.
"From our planners during the race which are forecasting it live, we were looking at catching him with two laps to go," Shovlin explained.
"When we thought it was on was probably five laps into that, you normally see the drop on the tyres and you could just see Lewis holding this eight-tenths advantage to Charles every lap.
"Lewis just wasn't dropping off and the balance was happy. And, to be honest, with Lewis, you can hear it in his voice in what he's saying on the radio.
"You just get this switch where he knows in his head he's going to do it today and, to be honest, it was really nice sitting on the pitwall just watching that final stint unfold because it was a great and well-deserved win."