Max Verstappen had looked unstoppable in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on Saturday.
The Red Bull driver set a scorching provisional pole time of 1:16.574s in his first flying lap in Q3. It set him up to become the youngest pole sitter in Formula 1 history.
But just when it seemed no one would beat him, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dug deep and found an extra few hundredths of a second. Ironically, it’s Vettel who currently holds the record that Verstappen had looked set to break.
“I am super annoyed,” Verstappen said after qualifying. “I don’t know, in Q3 it just got a bit more difficult.
“Q2 was looking really good,” he said. “In Q3 I couldn’t switch the tyres on and couldn’t go faster.
“This track is really slippery. For me, the front tyres were not working, a bit of understeer. On this track you need to turn quickly in the low-speed corners.
“Of course second is good, but not in the way it went,” he added. “You always try to go for pole position.
“Second is still a good place but after Q2 I had hoped for more.
“I gave it all of course today. But qualifying was just not good enough. I really wanted that pole position. At least we’ve got a decent start position.”
That starting position may still be in the balance. Verstappen has been referred to the race stewards as a result of an incident early in Q3 where he backed off and seemed to impede Valtteri Bottas who was on a hot lap.
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Botas complained that his lap had been wrecked by a dawdling car. “I was on my lap and I could see before coming to the last sector that he was going quite slow.
“He was just going slowly at the exit of turn 12 and compromised my line a little bit for turn 13 and I had a lock-up there. Definitely ruined my lap.
“I don’t know [if it deserves a penalty],” he added. “It’s not up to me. I don’t know how the rule book exactly says. What I know is the fact it ruined my lap and I only had one attempt in qualie 3 instead of two.”
Verstappen – who has been locked in a bitter feud with the race stewards already this week after losing out on a podium at the US Grand Prix – shrugged the whole matter off.
“Which incident?” he said when asked about it after the session. “I was on the inside, he was just doing his line, and he locked up. So here is no incident.
“It’s his own problem, isn’t it, if he out brakes himself in the next corner. I was on the inside, I didn’t hold him up, so he can say what he wants.
“I was already past the point where you got to the right, so I don’t see an incident.”
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