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Verstappen pays the price for failing to slow

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Max Verstappen was stripped of his Mexican Grand Prix pole position and handed a three place grid drop on Saturday for failing to slow for yellow warning flags.

Formula One F1 - Mexican Grand Prix - Hermanos Rodriguez Circuit, Mexico City, Mexico - October 26, 2019 Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the pit during the qualifying session. Eduardo Verdugo/Pool via REUTERS

Formula One stewards also imposed two penalty points on the 22-year-old Red Bull driver for the incident after Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas crashed on the final corner at the end of qualifying.

Verstappen compounded the offence by appearing defiant in a news conference before he was summoned.

“I was aware that Valtteri crashed,” the Dutchman, whose pole now goes to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, had said.

Asked whether he had backed off, he replied: “Didn’t really look like it, did it? No.”

Yellow flags warn drivers that they must reduce speed for safety reasons and be prepared to change direction suddenly.

Verstappen was handed a three-place grid drop at last year’s Russian Grand Prix for failing to slow for yellow flags in qualifying, and a similar drop looked likely from the moment of the summons.

Asked about the safety perspective, Verstappen had said: “I think we know what we are doing, otherwise we wouldn’t be driving an F1 car.

“It’s qualifying and you go for it. If they want to delete the lap, then delete the lap.”

The comments drew a firm response from Bottas’s team mate Lewis Hamilton, who now starts third and could seal his sixth championship if results go his way in Sunday’s race, when asked about respecting the flags.

“I think it’s really, really important that the FIA are very, very strict with the double yellow flags. There could be marshals on the scene,” he told reporters, recalling previous incidents that raised safety concerns.

“He didn’t even need to stay flat out, he’d already got pole basically.

“Luckily there were no marshals on the track. For all he knew, Valtteri could have been in the middle of the circuit and marshals could have been there. That’s what double yellow means -- could be a massive incident ahead.

“The fact that he ignored it, I mean it’s not great, but it’s done and hopefully the right calls are made and put in place. The drivers need to know to respect those things,” added the Briton.

Verstappen set his pole time with the first flying lap of the final top-10 session and faced yellow flags on his later second effort.

He has a chequered record with stewards, particularly in Mexico -- in 2016 he was demoted from third to fourth in the race after stewards ruled he had gained an advantage by leaving the track limits.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris