The conspiracy theory about AlphaTauri causing a virtual safety car period to help Max Verstappen and Red Bull in the Dutch Grand Prix is total rubbish and I’m not surprised to see the team criticising such suggestions.
You can see why AlphaTauri didn’t immediately diagnose the problem Yuki Tsunoda’s car suffered.
I’m pretty sure that when he left the pits after his second pitstop of the race he either broke the differential, a driveshaft joining or sheared the drive pegs. To him, that would feel like there was no drive on one side, so he thought that a wheel was loose. The team did later discover that it was apparently a diff problem.
It’s a logical conclusion for the driver to suggest a loose wheel at first given he’s just made a pitstop. But the crabbing effect he felt in the car was a consequence of a real problem, as he kept telling the team.
Tsunoda stopped and undid his seatbelts because he thought he was retiring. But then he was told to carry on when the team realised the wheels were attached properly and could see no other problem. But it’s not easy for the team to see if you have drive to both rear wheels when you aren’t moving.
When Tsunoda got back to the pits, the team changed the wheels, he drove in slowly so you would not notice if the differential was busted or if a driveshaft joint had failed as both rear wheels would be rotating at the same speed. So all seemed well.
The crew then took some time to do up the belts. He’d already reported over the radio that they were loose so the stewards would have been well aware of that problem, which earned him a reprimand. But as far as the team could see, there was no problem with the drive system.
But when he left the pitbox, it was clear there was no drive to one rear wheel. So Tsunoda told the team over the radio that he still had a problem and suggested, for the second time, it was probably the diff. But he would have needed to spin the rear wheels for the team to see it on the data, so they didn’t spot it until he attempted to leave his pitbox quickly and then backed off.
If you don’t spin the wheels there would be no difference in the speed of the rear wheels. The diff is what transmits the drive across the rear axle.
Tsunoda could perhaps have chosen a better place to park, for example on the other side of the track at Turn 3 where the car would have been even easier to recover. But that’s life, and it still likely would have meant a VSC. We have often seen parked-up cars cause safety cars.
Does anyone really think that Red Bull could orchestrate that type of a scenario mid-race, especially with a guy whose English is not his first language? It’s absolute b******s.
Mercedes screwed up in the race with its decision not to pit Lewis Hamilton under the final safety car, but did it in the best interests of potentially winning.
Yes, the virtual safety car for Tsunoda compromised the Mercedes attempt to win on a one-stop strategy, but these things happen.
The fact is, sometimes you can’t win and just because a car stopped and brought out the VSC at an inconvenient moment doesn’t mean there’s anything questionable going on.
Any suspicions Mercedes might have had about this – and it’s important to note it made no complaints or protests – will surely have vanished when it saw the facts of what happened. It just has to accept its own weaknesses and resist the temptation to blame AlphaTauri.
As for Red Bull, what would it gain from this? It was already well ahead in both championships and Verstappen probably would have won even if the Mercedes one-stopper had played out, after all.
Like so many conspiracy theories, it’s just total rubbish.