Max Verstappen loses Mexican GP pole, relegated to fourth on grid
Charles Leclerc moves onto Mexican GP pole with Verstappen down to fourth for yellow-flag infringement; Title-chasing Lewis Hamilton up into third on grid for Sunday's race at 7.10pm on Sky Sports F1
By James Galloway in Mexico City
Last Updated: 27/10/19 7:15pm
Max Verstappen has been relegated from first to fourth on the Mexican GP grid, with Charles Leclerc inheriting pole position for Ferrari.
Verstappen was handed the three-place penalty for falling to slow for yellow flags when Valtteri Bottas crashed at the end of Q3.
- Report: dramatic story of Mexico qualifying
- Hamilton moves into third on grid
- Mercedes assessing Bottas car damage
Leclerc will now head Sebastian Vettel on an all-Ferrari front row on Sunday's grid, with championship-chasing Lewis Hamilton up to third place ahead of the demoted Verstappen.
The race starts at 7.10pm on Sky Sports F1, with Hamilton able to win the championship if he outscores Bottas, who lines up sixth, by 14 or more points.
In a ruling against Verstappen's driving issued nearly four hours after the end of qualifying, stewards said that data and video evidence "clearly showed that the driver attempted to set a meaningful lap time and failed to reduce his speed" at the relevant point of the track.
Verstappen had earlier said in the post-qualifying press conference that he had not backed off despite seeing Bottas' crashed Mercedes.
Verstappen told stewards that while he had seen the Mercedes at the outside of the final corner, he was "not aware of the waved yellow flag". The Dutchman also confirmed he had not reduced his speed.
However, stewards disagreed, stating that the Red Bull had sufficient warning to slow down - and citied the fact Vettel did so ahead of him.
"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 previous driver (Car 5) reduced the speed significantly as per the regulations."
Verstappen also had two penalty points added to his race licence, doubling his tally.
When's the Mexican GP on Sky?
Lewis Hamilton can clinch his sixth world championship at the Mexican GP - and you can watch it all exclusively live on Sky Sports F1.
Mexican GP provisional grid: Revised top 10
1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
4. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
5. Alex Albon, Red Bull
6. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
7. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
8. Lando Norris, McLaren
9. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
10. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
Did Verstappen land himself in hot water?
Although a formal investigation into Verstappen's yellow-flag transgression was not initially launched after qualifying, the yellow-flag incident gained further traction after the 22-year-old told reporters in the official news conference that he had not backed off for Bottas' accident.
Q: Can you explain whether you backed off, if you were aware of it or you saw the yellow flags coming into that corner?
Verstappen: "I was aware that Valtteri crashed."
Q: Did you back off?
Verstappen: "Didn't really look like it, did it? No."
The Red Bull driver also suggested officials could simply delete his final lap time, as his first one from Q3 would also have been good enough for pole position.
However, after concludiing their investigation and studying relevant video and telemetry data, stewards ultimately ruled that a grid drop was warranted, with Verstappen stripped of what would have been just his second F1 pole position and Ferrari handed their sixth in succession.