Max Verstappen described himself as “super annoyed” to miss out on the first pole position of his career at the Mexican Grand Prix but escaped penalty for allegedly impeding Valtteri Bottas.
Having been comfortably quickest in Q2, Verstappen was over a quarter of a second clear of the field after the first attempts in Q3 and looked poised to take his maiden pole. However, Sebastian Vettel found a big improvement on his final lap to pip the 20-year-old by 0.086s and Verstappen was left frustrated by the missed opportunity.
“I’m super annoyed,” Verstappen said. “I don’t know. Actually in Q3 it just got a bit more difficult, couldn’t really get the tires to work. Of course, yeah, second is good, but not in the way I want.
“I mean you always try to go for pole position and Q2 was looking really good but somehow in Q3 I couldn’t switch the tires on and, yeah, I couldn’t go faster, simple as that. On this track, it’s really slippery and for me the front tires were not working, so just a bit of understeer and, on this track, you need to turn the car very quickly in the very low-speed corners and that was not happening in Q3, so I couldn’t improve.
“Of course, I mean second is still a good place but I think especially after Q2 I was hoping for more.”
Asked if there was an obvious reason for his relative struggles in the final part of qualifying, Verstappen replied: “It’s difficult to say.
“Basically, we did exactly the same thing as in Q2 but both sets, they didn’t really switch on as well as I had in Q2. Somehow also the last sector was a bit more difficult. So yeah, really difficult to understand but sometimes you have that in qualifying, that you put a new set on and somehow it’s a bit more tricky.”
Verstappen’s position on the grid was also under threat after the end of qualifying as he was investigated for allegedly impeding Bottas at the start of Q3. The stewards opted against handing out a penalty despite Bottas claiming Verstappen had “wrecked” his lap.
“The driver of car 33 was clearly aware from the team radio and using his mirrors that car 77 was approaching on a hot lap,” the stewards decision read. “He moved from the racing line on the exit of turn 12 to avoid impeding to car 77. The driver of car 33 did move slowly from the racing line which could have affected car 77, but the Stewards do not consider this as impeding.”