Scuderia AlphaTauri have fired back at claims by Lewis Hamilton fans that they colluded with Red Bull to help Max Verstappen win the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix.
The Dutchman had started the race on pole, but he ended up on a different strategy to the two Mercedes and it looked like he would need to pass both Hamilton and George Russell to claim the win.
However, Verstappen was handed the initiative after Yuki Tsunoda suffered a bizarre retirement, leading to the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car (VSC).
And, an unheard radio message between the Japanese driver and his race engineer seemingly added weight to the conspiracy theory, with Tsunoda being told to exit the pit-lane and then stop the car.
“Stop, stop. Stop in a safe place. Go out, go out, pit exit, and stop in a safe place,” the AlphaTauri driver was told.
Verstappen went on to win the race to extend his lead at the summit of the Drivers’ Standings, and many Hamilton fans were left fuming by the controversial DNF.
Hannah Schmitz, Red Bull’s Head of Strategy, was even accused of cheating and facilitating the retirement to aid the Dutch driver at his home race.
The Faenza-based team on Monday addressed the circulating conspiracy and insisted that there was no “foul play” whatsoever.
“It is incredibly disheartening to read some of the language and comments directed at our team and towards Red Bull Racing’s Head of Strategy, Hannah Schmitz,” AlphaTauri said in a statement.
“Such hateful behaviour cannot be tolerated, and to entertain accusations of foul play is unacceptable, untrue and completely disrespectful towards both Hannah and us,” they added.
It is unclear if the FIA will investigate Tsunoda’s unusual DNF and the radio communication he had with his team.
However, the reality is it’s highly unlikely Red Bull and AlphaTauri did cheat, given the fact Verstappen already had a commanding lead in the Drivers’ Standings, so taking victory in Zandvoort wasn’t that important to the team’s championship ambitions.
But, it’s almost certain that the fallout from this controversy will drag on next time out at Monza.