Verstappen qualified second on the grid at the Losail International Circuit, missing out on pole position to F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton by four tenths of a second.
But it emerged that Verstappen had set his fastest time while passing through a yellow flag zone at the end of Q3, leading to a summons for Sunday afternoon, four hours before the race.
While Red Bull argued Verstappen’s case, the stewards ultimately handed the Dutchman a five-place grid penalty for failing to slow for double-waved yellows, leaving him seventh on the grid.
Verstappen would recover to second place in the race, only losing six points to Hamilton in the title battle after also recording the fastest lap.
Asked by Motorsport.com about the penalty post-race, Verstappen revealed he was expecting to serve a grid drop as early as Saturday night.
“For my feeling, I knew I was going to get a penalty already yesterday evening, so I was prepared for that,” Verstappen said.
“When I saw the result, I was not shocked or surprised.
“You just focus, you have to pass a few more cars than you normally would like, but luckily it worked out really well on lap one already.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, arrives on the podium
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
By lap five, Verstappen was up to second place and less than four seconds behind Hamilton in the Mercedes ahead, but lacked the pace to cut the gap, ultimately finishing 25 seconds behind after a late pit stop to secure the fastest lap bonus point.
It means Verstappen still leads the F1 drivers’ championship with two races remaining, but his advantage over Hamilton is down to just eight points.
“We just didn’t have the pace this weekend to match them,” Verstappen said.
“I just tried to follow and yeah, it was alright at the end. I did the fastest lap, which I was pretty happy about. At the end of the day it’s one extra point.
“Everything counts at the moment. Overall, I would say this weekend wasn’t the best for us, but there’s still two races to go and a lot of things can happen still, so we’ll see.”
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