AlphaTauri issued a statement condemning conspiracy theories that Yuki Tsunoda retired from the Dutch Grand Prix to help Red Bull, after the driver himself explained his stoppage.
Tsunoda stopped on track as he felt a tire wasn’t fitted properly, before being told by AlphaTauri that his car was fine and to return to the pits. While there, Tsunoda’s belts were tightened as he had loosened them thinking he was retiring, and the car was checked before he was sent back out on track, but he was ordered to pull over after just a few corners, leading to a Virtual Safety Car that allowed Max Verstappen to make a pit stop and retain the race lead.
Although the stop forced Verstappen onto a hard tire he wanted to avoid – and allowed the chasing Mercedes drivers to switch to mediums and still pose a threat – online conspiracy theories that AlphaTauri used Tsunoda to aid Verstappen’s cause circulated after the incident.
“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,” an AlphaTauri statement read.
“Such hateful behavior 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, fair and with the highest leaves 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.”
The FIA later stated Tsunoda suffered a differential problem after a pit stop that the driver himself said left the car feeling very strange to handle, which is why he thought a wheel was loose.
“I got told by my engineer to stop but we didn’t see any clear issue in the data,” Tsunoda said. “That’s why we drove back again to the pits to fit a new tire. After that we saw a clear [issue] in the data, that’s why we stopped.
“When I came out, accelerated from the pit exit, I felt like only one wheel was having wheelspin. I was like drifting on the straight, like counter-steering on the straight. I didn’t feel it was normal.
“We fitted a new tire again and I confirmed the same thing is happening. I thought first the wheelspin happened because of the hard tire, low grip, but it was clear something was going on with that rear part and the engineers confirmed there was an issue and we stopped.”