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Formula 1

Tsunoda's €40k fine for ableist slur lays down a marker

by Edd Straw
2 min read

RB Formula 1 driver Yuki Tsunoda has been fined €40,000, half of which is suspended, for using an ableist slur over the radio during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old was frustrated by the extent of queuing in the pitlane, and according to the FIA stewards, by the fact "another car blended into the fast lane ahead of him".

He expressed his annoyance over the radio, saying "these guys are f****** r*******".

This led to him being summoned for a potential breach of Article 12.2.1 k of the FIA's International Sporting Code - which covers "misconduct”.

The FIA stewards, including three-time grand prix winner Johnny Herbert, found that "the words used are offensive and wholly inappropriate" and therefore did constitute a breach of the ISC.

Tsunoda was apologetic and admitted that he wasn't aware of the connotations of the wording he used in English, but also accepted that wasn't an excuse for doing so.

This, along with the fact he offered to publicly apologise, led to half of the fine being suspended.

"During the hearing the driver was very apologetic and explained that because English is not his first language he was unaware until after the session what the meaning of the words used is in the English language," said the stewards' report.

"He said that he was horrified when he learned this. He contended that his understanding of the words was different, but acknowledged that this should not be considered as an excuse for what he did.

"The stewards appreciate the honesty of the driver, but reinforce the fact the words used are offensive and wholly inappropriate.

“To have used such words over a platform that is available to the public amounted to misconduct as defined in Article 20 of the International Sporting Code.

"Considering the circumstances, the stewards determine that a severe fine is required, but also take into account the genuine remorse of the driver and his offer to issue a public apology and for these reasons decide to suspend part of the fine imposed."

Tsunoda issued that promised apology on social media swiftly after the announcement of his fine.

He reiterated that he had 'completely misunderstood' the true meaning of the phrase he'd used and now had "better understanding" and was "very apologetic for what I said" because "this type of language has no place" in F1.

Tsunoda's fine highlights the FIA's evolving position on punishing such language that started in 2023.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Ferrari's Fred Vasseur were both warned for the language used in a Las Vegas Grand Prix press conference last year - although it should be noted they did not use ableist slurs and their offence related only to profanity.

Therefore, Tsunoda's offence was significantly more serious, hence the bigger fine.

Such a penalty acts not only as a punishment, but also lays down a marker to all participants that the FIA will punish such unacceptable ableist slurs in the future.

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