Why Tsunoda wasn’t allowed to back down

(Motorsport-Total.com) – At Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Yuki Tsunoda was the unfortunate victim of an unexpected anomaly in the FIA’s handling of safety car situations. The AlphaTauri rider lost two positions and was far behind the riders he was supposed to be fighting.

Before his stop, Tsunoda was just behind leader Russell



Following the controversy at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the world automotive governing body has decided to automate the system of identifying cars that have been caught, which are allowed to go back during the safety car period.

In Abu Dhabi, only a few cars were allowed behind leader Lewis Hamilton, meaning there was no traffic between him and Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, there were still cars between Verstappen and third Carlos Sainz to protect Red Bull from attacking.

This sped up the lap process enough to buy time for the restart and give Verstappen the chance to overtake Hamilton, who was on much older tyres, to win the world championship.

Rounded back in the pit lane

To prevent this from happening again, Formula 1’s timing software has been modified to automatically flag lapped cars, allowing them to make up a lap before restarting. In Brazil, in addition to Tsunoda, the Williams duo Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were affected.

Tsunoda was just behind leader George Russell when AlphaTauri took the opportunity to pit him during the safety car. He was briefly faster than the cars outside in the pit lane and, technically speaking, circled to the back for a moment.

Back on track, Tsunoda finished sixth – behind Russell, a lapped Albon, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Pérez and Carlos Sainz.

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But due to his “overtaking maneuver” in the pits, he was already considered to have been rounded back by the automatic system and was no longer eligible to do so again. When the news broke that lapped vehicles could now overtake, only Albon and Latifi’s numbers were shown.

Tsunodo’s engineer hesitated when he saw the message and said, “You can overtake…wait, hold on.” In the confusion, Tsunoda first overtook Sainz but then stayed behind Perez while Latifi, with whom the Japanese was battling for position, overtook him and passed the front cars.

When Tsunoda asked if he could overtake, he was told, “Negative, no overtaking”, to which he replied, “What the hell are we doing here?” Then it was, “Hold your position Yuki, don’t overtake.” He then let Sainz pass again and resumed his original place in the queue.

Tsunoda has to let Feld through

At the restart Tsunoda Sainz was still separated from his pursuers led by Charles Leclerc. In order not to disrupt their race, his engineer instructed him to let the faster cars pass, so the AlphaTauri driver nearly stalled as he let the entire field pass.

As a result, Tsunoda finished in 17th and last place behind Albon and Latifi. Had he been in the right place on the restart he should have beaten them both on his fresh tyres. And he probably could have gotten even more seats.

Asked what happened, Tsunoda was at a loss immediately after the race: “I was told you have to stay in line. I don’t know why. Probably the FIA, I think I was fighting for fifth place or something!”

F1: Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo) 2022 – Sunday

The automatic system was never intended to disadvantage the driver in this way, or to leave the captured car in the middle of the field in such circumstances. However, the FIA ​​stresses that there were no errors: “All systems worked correctly and according to regulations.”

The FIA ​​explains: Everything was fine

The “unusual situation” is due to the “peculiar characteristics of the route and scenario”. In this, Tsunoda was the first to pass the safety car on line 1 after the safety car was deployed. In the following lap, he passed it first for the second time, which entitles him to return.

“However, at that point he entered the pit lane and was able to pass the cars behind the safety car. He spun back as he crossed the pit lane control line,” the statement continued.

“When he rejoined the track, the systems correctly showed he was a lap down again. But because he had already circled back once, it was no longer allowed after the safety car expired. According to the timing, only Latifi and Albon were eligible for it.

“While this is a very unusual scenario,” the FIA ​​concludes, “there were no systemic or procedural errors – it’s one of those unpredictable scenarios that can happen. There are no immediate changes that need to be implemented.”

However, going forward, the situation should be “discussed as part of normal review procedures” so that adjustments can be made if necessary.

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