Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen’s hopes of improving their F1 grid positions were scuppered when they came across Tsunoda in the sequence of fast, sweeping corners on their final laps in Q3. 

The AlphaTauri driver went off at Turn 10 during his in-lap in an attempt to get out of the way, but Perez appeared to become distracted as he approached the corner, before making a mistake and going wide himself, almost collecting Tsunoda as he took to the run-off area. 

Verstappen was next on the scene and backed off through the corner after seeing the dust kicked up by both cars ahead, wary not to breach yellow flag rules for the second qualifying session in a row in Mexico in his belief someone may have crashed. 

"Unbelievable, what a dumb idiot,” Verstappen rued over team radio, before later claiming the incident had “destroyed” his pole lap attempt as he ended up third behind Valtteri Bottas and title rival Lewis Hamilton. 

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was unimpressed with what he witnessed, telling Sky: “I think we got Tsunoda’d.

“Both drivers were up on their last lap. Max was up two and a half tenths and I think Checo was just under two tenths up and I don’t understand why he was just cruising around at that part of the circuit.

“So it’s disappointing because it affected both the drivers. They are both pretty annoyed.”

Perez felt third on the grid was “definitely” possible had he not suffered a loss of downforce from running in Tsunoda’s dirty air, which the Mexican claimed led to his off. 

But Tsunoda protested his innocence as he responded to the accusations by saying: “I didn’t mess up Red Bull, they just did a mistake by themselves.”

In the immediately aftermath of qualifying, Tsunoda was unaware that he had potentially ruined Verstappen’s lap as well. 

“I don’t know about Max, did I fuck up Max as well?” Tsunoda asked reporters. 

Tsunoda had been on his way back to the pits after giving teammate Pierre Gasly a tow for his final lap that was good enough to secure a superb fifth on the grid. 

The Japanese racer received a countdown from his race engineer and was told to let Perez past before the two Red Bulls caught him, which he did so at the earliest - and most convenient - opportunity. 

“I went outside and I couldn’t really do more than that,” Tsunoda added. “I don’t know where I should go then.

“I had a countdown [when] I was in sector two. If I had another chance I’d do the same thing, I don’t know what else I should do.”

Tsunoda, who is a Red Bull junior, admitted to being worried about potential ramifications ahead of an internal discussion about the matter. 

“I’m a bit worried now because I have to discuss with Red Bull whether I did anything wrong.”

AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost moved to defend his driver and seemed to imply that Red Bull’s frustration would be better directed at Perez. 

“It’s not Yuki’s fault,” Tost said. “He didn’t make a mistake, he did it deliberately. We said to him, ‘the Red Bulls are coming, Perez is coming’ and he deliberately went to the side, not to disturb them or be in front of them. 

“I absolutely don’t understand why Perez went also off the track there. Yuki went to the side, as all the drivers do in qualifying, to make space for the cars that are coming behind on a qualifying lap. 

“And he was not on a qualifying lap, it’s as easy as that.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff doubted the Red Bull pair would have been able to challenge for pole if they had not been forced to abort their final Q3 efforts.

“Internal Red Bull discussions are none of my business but I think at that stage, sector one and sector two, they were behind,” he said. 

“I think it was something like two-tenths or two-and-a-half tenths.”

Our verdict:

For Red Bull's management to throw Tsunoda under the bus in the public manner they did was completely unfair and not a justifiable explanation for its qualifying downfall. 

Instilling the seeds of panic and doubt into Tsunoda's mind is a poor way to manage a driver who has faced difficulties this year, and one who has only just started to rebuild his confidence thanks to a recent turnaround in form. 

Red Bull's problems ultimately stemmed from the fact Verstappen and Perez had failed to deliver strong-enough laps on their opening salvo. They were on the foot through their own doing, not Tsunoda's.  

After all, the risks of getting caught out by an accident ahead when opting to run towards the back of the train for the final laps when in need of improvement are well known.

On this occasion, the gamble didn’t work out but Tsunoda didn't deserve to be the scapegoat.