AlphaTauri fined €5000 after Yuki Tsunoda continued Baku sprint in ‘unsafe’ AT04

Jamie Woodhouse
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, right-rear puncture. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, has a right-rear puncture. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

The AlphaTauri bank account will be a little lighter after a hefty fine was handed out for returning Yuki Tsunoda to the Baku sprint in a heavily damaged AT04.

It was towards the end of the opening lap that Tsunoda was seen driving with only three tyres attached to his AlphaTauri, the fourth rolling down the Baku City Circuit some way behind.

Footage showed Tsunoda hitting the wall on the approach to Turn 15, which he revealed had come about after shortly before colliding with team-mate Nyck de Vries, causing him to lose his front wing.

Tsunoda made it back to the pits as the Virtual Safety Car and then the full Safety Car appeared, and after assessing the damage in the pits, AlphaTauri chose to send Tsunoda back out onto the track.

The Japanese racer was effectively driving that AT04 sideways though as the right-rear suspension soon failed, causing AlphaTauri to swiftly call him back to the pits to retire the car.

And the stewards were far from pleased with AlphaTauri for sending Tsunoda’s car back out into the sprint, therefore hitting the team with a fine of €5000.

“The stewards heard from the driver of Car 22 (Yuki Tsunoda) and a team representative and reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, timing, team radio and in-car video evidence and determined that the team released Car 22 in an unsafe condition,” their report began.

“Car 22 had entered the pits after a shunt at Turn 13 of Lap 1 where the right rear tyre had come off and the rim was touching the track. The driver had indicated to the team while returning to the pits that the shunt was significant and that he did not think it was possible to continue.

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“The team apparently did a visual check on the car, refitted a new tyre and rim and released the car. The right rear suspension failed almost immediately after the release and the car had to be driven slowly back to the pits and retired.

“We considered that the team could have done more to check if the car was safe before releasing it. The team representative acknowledged that more could have been done. In the circumstances, we imposed a €5,000 fine on the team.”

With Nyck de Vries finishing the sprint in P14, it meant no points scored for AlphaTauri, but as long as Tsunoda’s car is fully repaired in time for Sunday’s Grand Prix, he has every chance of recording a points-scoring finish from P8 on the grid.