Proof: Why Yuki Tsunoda Wasn’t the Villain in the Red Bull Q3 Fiasco

Published 11/07/2021, 6:54 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Mexico Grand Prix – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico – November 5, 2021 AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in action during practice REUTERS/Edgard Garrido


Yuki Tsunoda has been the talk of the qualifying session after his Q3 incident. While Red Bull assigned blame to the Japanese driver, it turns out he was never one at fault.

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Despite incurring a grid penalty, Yuki Tsunoda was in the Q3 session for two purposes- qualifying ahead of competitors like Lando Norris also taking penalties, and giving Pierre Gasly a tow if he needed it. Tsunoda successfully checked both the boxes.

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So, when he slowed down at the final moments of Q3, it was because he finished his purpose, and now wanted to give way to the Red Bulls. Both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen were setting competitive laps, and AlphaTauri wanted to help their sister team.

Alas, the help didn’t quite go the way they planned. Listening to Yuki’s onboard radio, when he is informed that Perez is behind him, he moves away for the driver. However, this is where Perez got distracted and followed Tsunoda off the track.

Looking at the chaos ahead of him, Verstappen assumed it would be a sort of yellow flag situation; so he backed off as well. Overall, it was confusion on the Red Bull drivers’ part. No yellow flag was waved, and Yuki pushed no one off the track. Whatever the pole contenders did was voluntary.

What the team bosses had to say about Yuki Tsunoda

Decoding the radio messages, Tsunoda had reached the esses on the track. Thus, it would have been difficult to make way for Perez on the track itself. Thus Tsunoda made a common move to the run-off area. The only thing the team didn’t take into consideration was the cloud of dust the move had thrown out.

The reaction by the race engineer was an apt: “F*ck!” when he realized what the Bulls had done. Regardless, Tsunoda isn’t to blame. However, Christian Horner was, infamously, the first to pounce on the rookie. “I think we got Tsunoda’d! I don’t understand why [Tsunoda] was just cruising around at that part of the circuit.”

AlphaTauri team principal, Franz Tost, backed his driver, giving Horner the answer to his questions. “He gave a tow to Pierre [Gasly]. It’s as easy as that. And we wanted to be in front of [Lando] Norris. So two things why he was out [on track].”

Tsunoda had made a lot of sacrifices for his team, also by starting Q2 on softs to help his teammate. To have done an honorable job and still be put down by the top management is unwarranted.

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Tost added, “He didn’t make a mistake, he did it deliberately… I absolutely don’t understand to be honest why Perez went also off the track there.”

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With Tsunoda having a tough rookie season, his Mexican GP was a breakthrough. So, the public criticism from giants of the Red Bull management is a little harsh for the rookie, even if in the heat of the moment. Hopefully, Yuki uses it as fuel in his charge from P17- head high and elbows out, Tsunoda has a point to prove.

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Shreya Sanjeev

642 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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