Yuki Tsunoda’s Dutch GP stoppage led to conspiracy theories online after a VSC helped Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton; Toto Wolff has raised suspicions over the incident, but Sky Sports F1’s Paul Di Resta insists ‘you can’t orchestrate this’
Last update: 05/09/22 10:24
The virtual safety car is deployed as AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda is forced to pull over to the side of the track.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has raised questions about Yuki Tsunoda’s bizarre stoppage at the Dutch GP and insists Lewis Hamilton would have had a great chance of beating Max Verstappen without a break.
Sunday’s thrilling race appeared to be heading for Hamilton’s first win of the season as he chased Verstappen on much faster tyres, with the Red Bull driver once again having to stop.
But that changed when a virtual safety car was called on lap 48 of 72 for a particular stop by Tsunoda.
Tsunoda, who drives for Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri, reported tire issues and appeared set to retire from the race as he pulled over and unbuckled his seat belts, before being called back to the stalls. After a series of checks – including re-tightening his straps – Tsunoda was sent on his way again only to be told by his team to stop again after just four turns.
Lewis Hamilton expresses his frustration with Mercedes’ strategic decisions on team radio during the Dutch Grand Prix.
VSC were then called out and gave Verstappen an effective free pit stop to hold on to his lead – as he then passed Hamilton after a full safety car, with the Mercedes driver eventually finishing fourth.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner insisted it didn’t really play into Verstappen’s game, but Wolff opened the door to conspiracy theories that have emerged online since the events.
“If we were to fight for a championship, it would be something I would look closely at,” admitted the Mercedes team principal when asked if the ruling FIA should investigate the incident.
“Now I think what needs to be studied for the safety of the drivers and everyone there.
Max Verstappen overtakes Lewis Hamilton on the restart after the end of the safety car at the Dutch Grand Prix.
“The driver stopped, unbuckled, went full circle, got in, the problem wasn’t fixed, they put the seat belts back on and he drove off and stopped the car again.
“It probably changed the outcome of the race that we might have been able to win.”
Wolff said without the VSC, Verstappen would have left the pits behind Hamilton by up to eight seconds.
“I think we would have had a good chance of winning,” he added. “The race planner said victory was on the way. It was very close, but it was on.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff defends the team’s strategic calls, insisting they needed to take risks to have a chance of winning the race.
Tsunoda’s problem was confirmed to be a broken differential, while he also received a reprimand – giving him a 10-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Italian GP – for driving with loose seat belts.
Providing his version of events, Japanese rider Tsunoda, 22, said: “I thought there was a problem and a problem with the left rear tire so my engineer told me to stop.
“But we didn’t see a clear problem in the data. That’s why we went to the pits to fit a new tyre. But after that we saw a clear problem in the data, that’s why we stopped [for a second time].”
Asked about the nature of the failure, Tsunoda replied, “I don’t know.”
Former F1 world champion Damon Hill explains to Sky Sports News why Lewis Hamilton was frustrated with the Mercedes team during the Dutch Grand Prix.
“You Can’t Orchestrate This”: Diving into the Tsunoda DNF
Asked after the race about Tsunoda’s controversial stoppage, Sky Sports F1 Paul Di Resta was adamant.
“You can’t orchestrate this,” he said.
Radio messages confirm this belief that it could not have been manipulated.
Tsunoda repeatedly stated on Lap 45 that his “tires didn’t fit”, leading AlphaTauri to tell him to “stop on a track in a safe place”.
Lewis Hamilton has apologized for criticizing Mercedes’ strategy on team radio, admitting he was “on the verge of emotional breaking point”.
Thirty seconds later they told him that “tires are OK, start again” and said “we box, we install another tire and we go out” – making it clear that they were still planning to fire Tsunoda and hoped that a tire change would help.
Immediately upon exiting the pits, Tsunoda said, “Something is wrong, something weird in the back. It’s broken I think.”
AlphaTauri then replied, “Stop, stop in a safe place.”
The failure was later diagnosed as a broken differential, which is rarely seen in F1 racing.
“The FIA has all the information, all the radios of the team,” added Di Resta. “Yuki does their own thing and AlphaTauri is their own team.
“And I don’t think the race was ultimately lost there. [for Hamilton].”