FIA explain why Yuki Tsunoda could not join unlapping pack at Interlagos

Michelle Foster
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, makes a pit stop. F1 Brazil November 2022

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda makes a pit stop. Brazil November 2022

The FIA have blamed the “idiosyncrasies of the specific circuit and scenario” after Yuki Tsunoda was not permitted to unlap himself during the final Safety Car period at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

A lap down on race leader George Russell, Tsunoda, as well as the two Williams cars of Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi, were given a lifeline when the Safety Car was deployed as Lando Norris retired with a power unit failure.

But while the Williams team-mates’ numbers were displayed in Race Control’s ‘cars may now unlap themselves’ message, Tsunoda’s was not.

“I got told I had to stay in the line, so I just stayed,” said the AlphaTauri driver, who was stuck mid-queue.

“I thought I could overtake [to unlap], but they said no so I just stayed.”

The FIA insist there was nothing wrong with their system, saying the “unusual situation arose as a result of the idiosyncrasies of the specific circuit and scenario.”

Although the Japanese driver initially registered on the timing system as a lapped car when the Safety Car came out, he pitted the following lap.

As he entered the pits, able to go faster than the pack, he briefly unlapped himself.

That meant when he returned to the queue behind the Safety Car, although he was again one lap down, he wasn’t permitted to unlap himself a second time.

The FIA explained: “Car 22 [Tsunoda] was the first to cross SC1 [the first Safety Car line] following the deployment of the Safety Car.

“On the following lap he therefore became the first car to cross SC1 line for a second time, which would normally trigger the systems to indicate he is eligible to unlap.

“However, at this time he entered the pit lane and was able to go faster than the train of cars behind the Safety Car. In doing so, he unlapped himself when crossing the control line in the pit lane.

“When he re-joined the circuit, the systems correctly indicated that he was again a lap down, however as he had already unlapped himself once, he was not eligible to do so again when the Safety Car period was ending.

“Race control checked this was correct with F1 Timing and they confirmed that only Car 6 and Car 23 could unlap themselves.

“While this is a very unusual scenario, there were no systems or procedural errors – it is one of those unpredictable scenarios that can happen and there are no immediate changes that need to be implemented.”

Tsunoda finished 17th, last of the classified runners.

“After the changes ahead of the race, the car felt slightly better but I still wasn’t that comfortable in it, and we didn’t have the pace,” he said.

“Normally, you’re able to unlap yourself under the Safety Car, but I was told to stay in my position, so we ended the day a whole lap behind the pack, with no opportunity to make my way forward.

“It’s been a difficult weekend, so we need to go away and investigate why we’ve struggled so much ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi next week.”

Read more: Race: George Russell takes thrilling maiden victory at Sao Paulo Grand Prix