Max Verstappen set two laps quick enough for pole position in Mexico but on his second Q3 push lap Valtteri Bottas crashed exiting the final corner.
Verstappen kept pushing and set a purple sector time and after a three-hour wait, the stewards determined that he had transgressed, issuing him with a three-place grid penalty.
During the course of the afternoon, there were a few misnomers that caught the attention of observers, which Formula 1 Race Director Michael Masi addressed during his usual open media post-race debrief.
One was that a single waved yellow flag was shown, with the dash on Verstappen’s RB15 not illuminating in yellow as would be expected.
“The yellow flags at each point, so we’re following all the traditional flags of single yellow, double yellow, green flag, white flag, slippery surface red and yellow, are all operated by the marshal operator at that point,” explained Masi.
“So they each have a panel, press a button and bang that activates it. Safety Car, red flag, VSC is all operated from race control. So effectively all those that have to be activated simultaneously at all points are operated by us at race control.
“Valtteri’s impact severed the chord from the guy pressing the button so he could have pressed it as many times as he wanted but the impact severed the chord. At that point, there’s no ability for the light panel to get a signal.”
The incident happened at 14:00 but stewards did not summon Verstappen until 15:42, scheduling a hearing at 16:10, with the decision released at 17:25.
It meant a wait of almost three-and-a-half hours for the result of qualifying to be official, the fourth time in 2019 that the outcome of either qualifying or the race has been unknown for a long period.
“With the sequence of what happened the primary thing was Valtteri’s health, getting the medical car out there, making sure he was all OK,” said Masi.
“The second part was then once that happened getting the car back to the team, third element repairing the circuit for the next activity so as my role as the safety delegate I went out there to make sure that everything was there in position.
“We get back to the office and start working through the data that exists and looked over all three cars that were after Valtteri’s incident — which was Lewis, Sebastian and Max — and reviewed all three of them. So once I did that and looked at all the video evidence and the data.
“It’s also a complicated sport in comparison so you have to look at all the information you have to establish had something gone effectively, had a driver breached the rules or not.
“In this case, it was determined that one of them had and because of the nature of the sport we are you have to look at everything in totality and then compare that with the various texts in the regulations.”
Another reason for the lengthy wait was due to the fact that the stewards have to close one investigation before opening another, and at the time the four-person panel was assessing the unsafe release involving Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.
“They can’t issue a summons to attend a hearing — which is the formal notification — so as soon as that hearing concluded with Renault and Toro Rosso they wrote up the summons,” said Masi.
“I effectively reported the incident to them at that point once there was an incident to report.”
It was also suggested that Verstappen’s provocative comments contributed to the investigation but Masi said it was “100 percent” untrue, adding that “by the time I had referred it to the stewards, and told the stewards the matter was to be looked at… it was after that that Max’s comments came to light.”