Max Verstappen has revealed he "backed out" of his qualifying attempt before seeing yellow flags due to being stung by the stewards in 2019.
Formula 1 last visited Mexico in 2019 and although Verstappen set the fastest time in qualifying that year, the Dutchman was hit with a three-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags after Valtteri Bottas crashed at the final corner in Q3.
When Verstappen saw dust flying in Q3 this time around, he immediately slowed in order to prevent a repeat despite the yellow flags not being displayed.
As a result, Verstappen will start third in Mexico behind pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.
"I don’t know what happened in front of me, but it must have been Yuki holding up first Checo and then both of them, of course, had to go wide," said Verstappen.
"I just saw a lot of dust, so I thought a car crashed and you know now with the yellow flag rules, I’ve been caught with that already here in Mexico, I backed out of it a bit and then no yellow flag came so I continued pushing but of course that’s already like two-and-a-half tenths gone.
"So, my lap was basically finished. What can you do?"
Despite only topping one of the three free practice sessions heading into qualifying, Verstappen had been widely tipped to secure pole.
Dismissing that a cracked rear wing, damage sustained in the final practice session, had played a part in the "terrible" session, Verstappen explained Red Bull had struggled on the softer compound of Pirelli tyre.
"I think we were just really slow and just terrible grip in Q3," explained Verstappen.
"I think my last lap, we recovered that a bit. We were just getting the tyres in a little bit in a better window but were still, let’s say, not to what we would have liked and how the car has been behaving in all the practice sessions.
"So that’s a bit of a mystery but tomorrow we mainly race on different tyres anyway, so I expect the balance to be good again."
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