Max Verstappen says he didn’t get a call early enough to speed up on his out lap as he led four cars across the line to start their final Chinese Grand Prix qualifying laps after the checkered flag.
All 10 cars in Q3 headed out on track at a similar time, with the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the head of the field. With a slow out lap, a number of cars further back were running out of time in the session to start their laps, and Verstappen was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo before failing to cross the line quickly enough.
“Beep beep beep beep, that’s what I said,” Verstappen admitted. “Looking back at it, I didn’t know if it was 10 or 15 seconds. I was just staying behind the Ferrari because with two corners to go, it’s basically like a kind of a gentleman’s agreement that you stay behind.
“So, I was doing that but I thought we still had like 20, 30 seconds left. But I guess the other cars who then overtook me, they got a hurry-up from their engineer that there was only like 10 seconds left. That’s how it is.
“When they got past, then they were like, ‘You have to hurry up as well.’ But it was already too late. I got the flag for the line. It was one or two seconds.”
Verstappen admitted the issue was a combination of other cars overtaking him and not being made aware how tight he was for time, with Pierre Gasly and the two Haas cars still behind him when the checkered flag came out.
“They, I guess, got the call and I got it later on. But I thought it was, I don’t know, 15 seconds left. And I was just following the car ahead. And then Seb went in between so then I wanted to back out of that because I was like, ‘OK, well if he’s going for it now I have to back out.’
“And then the Renaults went in front. So I was like, ‘Well, where do I go now?’ I could start my lap behind them but then your lap is anyway ruined. You need at least four or five seconds because you get disturbed by the dirty air anyway.”
Verstappen will start from fifth having been third after his first Q3 run, and he admits a position ahead of the two Ferraris got away from Red Bull as a result of the timing error.
“I mean, we were fighting for third. So, there was definitely the opportunity to go for it. My first lap in Q3 was not perfect because I lost a bit of grip compared to my previous set in the second and third sector. So, yeah, definitely we could have fought for third but I mean that’s always afterwards. But from my feeling it was definitely (possible).”