AlphaTauri has labelled online allegations of race-fixing during the Dutch Grand Prix as “insulting and categorically incorrect”.
The Virtual Safety Car that was deployed in order to recover Tsunoda’s car enabled Red Bull to pit Verstappen while still keeping his lead.
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Verstappen went on to win the race after a late-race safety car allowed him another cheap pitstop to change to soft tyres.
Much of the hate from the race had been directed at Red Bull’s chief strategy engineer Hannah Schmitz.
In a statement released on social media, AlphaTauri said “language and comments” directed at Schmitz were “disheartening”.
“Such hateful behavior cannot be tolerated, and to entertain accusations of foul play is unacceptable, untrue, and completely disrespectful towards both Hannah and us,” it said.
“We have always competed independently, fairly and with the highest levels of respect and sportsmanship.
“Yuki had a failure the team didn’t immediately detect which caused him to stop on track.
“To suggest anything different is insulting and categorically incorrect.”
The saga began when Tsunoda stopped on track on lap 44 immediately after pitting, telling the team he felt a tyre had not been fitted correctly.
He loosened his belts to get out of the car before being told to continue as data suggested all four wheels were tight.
He drove slowly back to the pits for a new set. His belts were re-tightened and he was sent back on his way.
However, he reported back to the team he could still feel the problem as he left the pitbox, which led the young Japanese driver to suggest it may have been a differential issue. He was told to continue out of the narrow pitlane exit to avoid blocking it, and to stop the car.
It was then the VSC was called.
Any advantage gained however was nullified by a late-race safety car to retrieve the stricken Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas from the pit straight, which allowed everyone at least the opportunity to pit for softs.
Mercedes did so for George Russell, but elected not to for Hamilton.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said their data showed Verstappen would’ve come out of the pits well behind his two drivers, and said he might’ve looked into the conspiracy claims more seriously if Mercedes were fighting Red Bull for a championship.
“What needs to be investigated for the safety of drivers – and everybody out there – is that the driver stopped, unbuckled, did a full lap, came in … the problem wasn’t solved, they put the seatbelts back on and he drove out and stopped the car again,” Wolff said after the race..
“That probably changed the outcome of a race we maybe could have won.
“The simulation said Max would have come out eight seconds behind us and we would have had a fair shot.
“The race planner said the win was on. Max would have caught Lewis about eight laps from the end.
“It would have been very close.”
Tsunoda was indeep reprimanded for driving with the loosened belts. It’s his fifth reprimand for the year, which has triggered a mandatory 10-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
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