Alpine junior denies deliberately putting F3 rival into the wall at Australian GP

Michelle Foster
Alpine academy driver Nikola Tsolov

Alpine academy driver Nikola Tsolov

Alpine junior Nikola Tsolov has denied he deliberately crashed into Alex Dunne during practice in retaliation for the MP Motorsport driver weaving in front of him.

Tsolov had pundits and social media up in arms on Friday when he came up alongside Dunne, moved right, and seemed to push the Irish driver off the track and into the wall.

‘A bit of a misunderstanding, but nothing intentional from any side’

The stewards were quick to announce that would be investigated after the session with both drivers summoned to see them after the session for the Turn 10 incident.

Tsolov has defended himself, calling it a “misunderstanding.”

“I was a bit confused,” he told FeederSeries. “I arrived on a push lap and I think the MP was weaving, so I didn’t know where to go to get past him because he was on a cool lap or something.

“I went to the left side and then I just felt a hit under my rear tyre.

“So I think it was just a bit of a misunderstanding, but nothing intentional from any side. I think it was just a bit unfortunate.”

Asked if he wasn’t aware that Dunne was there on his right, he replied: “I knew he was there, but then I suddenly just felt the hit. I didn’t do anything strange. I was just on the racing line.”

But with questions raised about whether Tsolov’s actions were in retaliation after Dunne had earlier wrecked the ART Grand Prix driver’s hot lap as he weaved to warm up his tyres, Tsolov insisted it was not intentional.

“I have no intention against him. There’s nothing to win in a practice session, so I wouldn’t do something like that,” he said.

Tsolov received a three-place grid penalty from the stewards and two penalty points on his super licence.

The stewards agreed that it was not malicious, just misjudged.

“Car 25 stated that his lap was affected by Car 9 and he wanted the Driver to be aware of his presence and that he was being impeded. Car 25 deviated from his normal racing line to drive close to Car 9 to highlight his presence. He unfortunately misjudged this action and collided with Car 9,” read the stewards’ statement.

“Having considered the matter extensively, the stewards determined the actions of Car 25, while unintended, caused the collision that was completely avoidable. The Stewards, therefore, impose a grid drop in accordance with previous precedents.”

Read next: Seven must-see F1 weekends to tick off your 2024 bucket list