Toto Wolff was left “speechless” at how Yuki Tsunoda’s Dutch Grand Prix retirement played out, the Virtual Safety Car working in Max Verstappen’s favour.
But he concedes Mercedes “probably” would not have won the race anyway.
Tsunoda not only caused confusion among fans and pundits but also had the conspiracy theorists out in force as he tried to retire his AT03, only to get going on, head into the pits, be told to go back out and then retire the car a few corners later.
That time his stoppage was for good, the Virtual Safety Car coming out and race leader Verstappen, under pressure from the Mercedes team-mates, gifted a ‘cheap’ pit-stop.
That, however, was not the last roll of the dice in the race as Valtteri Bottas later retired on the pits straight, his DNF bringing out the Safety Car which changed the order with Lewis Hamilton then leading as Verstappen stopped for soft tyres.
Verstappen went on to pass Hamilton at the restart, racing to the win ahead of George Russell.
Wolff is still baffled by the events of Tsunoda’s retirement.
“Tsunoda stopping on track, restarting, coming back with seatbelts not on, starting the car up again and breaking down half a lap later…[makes noises] speechless,” the Mercedes motorsport boss told The Race.
He did, however, concede to Sky Germany that even if Verstappen had not been gifted a pit-stop under the VSC and had come out behind Hamilton, Mercedes probably still would not have won the grand prix.
“If Tsunoda doesn’t roll into the pit lane without a seatbelt and they start him again, then Verstappen will come out eight seconds behind Lewis,” said Wolff.
“Who knows? We probably wouldn’t have won it, but it would have been a different situation.”
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As for AlphaTauri, their chief engineer Claudio Balestri explained the events: “After the pit-stop, he reported something strange at the rear of the car, we called him in again to change the tyres and immediately after we had a car failure. This is currently under investigation within the team.”
Tsunoda was subsequently given a reprimand by the stewards for driving on the track with his seatbelts partly undone, the driver having loosened them when he first thought he would be retiring at the side of the track.