MEXICO CITY — Max Verstappen has been stripped of his pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix for failing to slow under yellow warning flags following Valtteri Bottas’ accident.
Verstappen has been demoted three places on Sunday’s grid, leaving him fourth and promoting Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel to the front row while Lewis Hamilton will line up third.
The incident happened after Bottas slammed into the barriers coming out of the final corner on his flying lap, resulting in a yellow sector at the end of the lap. Verstappen, who was behind Bottas on track, failed to slow, setting his fastest final sector in the process and a new fastest lap.
Under the yellow flag regulations, drivers must “reduce their speed and be prepared to change direction,” and “it must be clear that a driver has reduced speed and, in order for this to be clear, a driver would be expected to have braked earlier and/or discernibly reduced speed in the relevant marshalling sector.”
After summoning Verstappen to the stewards and reviewing video, audio and telemetry evidence, the stewards said the Red Bull driver had seen the car at the side of the track but not reduced his speed. “The Stewards noted from the on board images of Car 33, that the waved yellow flag was clearly visible and was shown with enough notice,” the stewards’ statement said. “The previous driver [Sebastian Vettel] reduced the speed significantly as per the regulations.
“Taking into account all the available evidence and the statement from the driver, the stewards impose a drop of three grid positions at the driver’s next race and two penalty points.”
In the post-qualifying news conference, Verstappen previously said the FIA could “delete my lap” if they found that he had ignored yellow flags, in the knowledge his earlier lap was still good enough for pole position.
Asked if what he did was unsafe, Verstappen added: “Do we have to go there? To safety? I think we know what we are doing — otherwise we would not be driving an F1 car.
“It’s qualifying and, yeah, you go for it. But like I said before, if they want to delete the lap, then delete the lap.”
The result could help Hamilton wrap up his sixth world title this weekend as he needs to outscore teammate Bottas to be crowned champion. Bottas starts sixth on the grid as things stand, but Mercedes are still assessing the damage to his car, with 90% certainty the repairs will not result in a grid penalty. Hamilton must outscore Bottas by 14 points to win the championship.