Max Verstappen fumed at a missed opportunity to occupy a higher grid slot for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix admitting he was “caught out” in a queue of cars in Q3.

Verstappen had set the fourth-fastest laptime after the initial runs in the final segment of qualifying as the top 10 drivers went out to complete their final attempts.

However, the Dutchman found himself in the middle of a train of cars on the out-lap, who were all trying to generate temperature into their tyres and find space for a final hotlap.

Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg overtook Verstappen at the hairpin to begin their laps, forcing him to back up, but, despite a hurry-up from his engineer, he ran out of time to complete a second flying lap.

“I was following the Ferrari in front of me and trying to be nice. I could also have overtaken him, but it’s just not what you do in qualifying,” Verstappen told Sky Sports post-qualifying.

“This time it caught me out. Of course I’m not happy about that, but it will swing around and it will come back onto others as well. It’s annoying. We could have fought for third today.

“Now we just need to do some more overtaking.”

Verstappen’s aborted run allowed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to displace the 21-year-old for fourth-place, demoting him to the third row.

Asked if he’d expected Red Bull to be as competitive around Shanghai, Verstappen said: “Not even expected, because it was there. We were fighting for third.

“Of course when you can’t finish your last lap, then that’s how it is. You know that the guys who have a lap have a chance of overtaking you.”