Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has raised questions about Yuki Tsunoda’s retirement from the Dutch Grand Prix, which assisted Max Verstappen’s victory.
Tsunoda, who drives for Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri, broke down on lap 48 of 72 and the ensuing Virtual Safety Car period handed Verstappen an effective free pit stop with Lewis Hamilton breathing down his neck.
However, the circumstances surrounding Tsunoda’s failure to finish raised eyebrows after he prepared to retire from the race by removing his safety belts only to be told to return to the pits.
After a series of checks – including the refastening of his straps – Tsunoda was again sent on his way only for AlphaTauri to tell him to retire the car after just four corners.
Asked if Formula One’s governing FIA should investigate the incident, Wolff replied: “If we were fighting for a championship, that would be something that I would closely look at.
“What needs to be investigated for the safety of drivers, and everybody out there is that the driver stopped, unbuckled, did a full lap, came in, the problem wasn’t solved, they put the seatbelts back on and he drove out and stopped the car again.
“That has probably changed the outcome of the race which we maybe could have won.”
Wolff said that without the VSC, Verstappen would have left the pits trailing Hamilton by as much as eight seconds.
He added: “We would have had a fair shot, and the race planner said the win was on. It would have been very close.”
Providing his version of events, Japanese driver Tsunoda, 22, said: “I thought there was an issue and a problem with the left-rear tyre, so I got told by my engineer to stop.
“But we didn’t see any clear issue in the data. That is why we rejoined to get back to the pits to fit a new tyre. But after that, we saw a clear issue in the data, so that is why we stopped (for a second time).”
Asked what the failure was, Tsunoda replied: “I don’t know.”
Tsunoda was reprimanded by the FIA for driving with loose safety belts. The stewards determined his retirement was due to a problem with the differential.