September 25, 2022

Mercedes ‘speechless’ as AlphaTauri condemn Tsunoda conspiracy claims

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was left “speechless” by AlphaTauri’s actions with Yuki Tsunoda during the Dutch Grand Prix.

In the team’s most competitive race of the season so far, a decision to run a one-stop strategy was set to give Lewis Hamilton and George Russell track position over Max Verstappen.

That changed when Tsunoda caused a Virtual Safety Car by stopping at the side of the track, allowing the Red Bull driver to pit and continue in the lead.

What was strange, however, was the situation before the Japanese driver pulled off.

Initially, Tsunoda stopped after reporting a loose wheel, continued when the team insisted nothing was wrong on the telemetry, pitted for new tyres but stopped again after a diff issue was finally noticed as he pulled out the box.

A sequence of events that baffled Wolff.

“Tsunoda stopping on track, restarting, coming back with seatbelts not on, starting the car up again and breaking down half a lap later… speechless,” the Mercedes boss told The Race.

Whether AlphaTauri’s dramas swung the race in Verstappen’s favour though, the Austrian was unsure.

“If Tsunoda doesn’t roll into the pit lane without a seatbelt and they start him again, then Verstappen will come out eight seconds behind Lewis,” he said.

“Who knows? We probably wouldn’t have won it, but it would have been a different situation.”

Still, that didn’t stop instant conspiracy theories that AlphaTauri and Red Bull orchestrated the Tsunoda situation to benefit Verstappen, a claim the Faenza-based team strongly rebuked.

“It is incredibly disheartening to read some of the language and comments directed at our team and towards Red Bull Racing’s head of strategy, Hannah Schmitz,” they said in a statement.

“Such hateful behaviour cannot be tolerated, and to entertain accusations of foul play is unacceptable, untrue and completely disrespectful towards both Hannah and us.

“We have always competed independently, fairly and with the highest levels of respect and sportsmanship.

“Yuki had a failure that the team didn’t immediately detect which caused him to stop on track. To suggest anything different is insulting and categorically incorrect.”