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F1: Wolff says Max Verstappen was aided to deny Lewis Hamilton first win

Toto Wolff has raised questions about Yuki Tsunoda’s bizarre stop in the latter stage of the Dutch Grand Prix. The Mercedes team principal is certain that the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) on Lap 48 changed the outcome of the race that Max Verstappen won.

Sunday’s race at Zandvoort seem to be swinging towards Lewis Hamilton after Mercedes opted for a one-stop strategy over Red Bull Racing’s two-stop for Verstappen. The Briton was closing in on the home hero on quicker tyres after his only stop, with the Dutchman needing to pit again.

But Hamilton’s chances of securing his first win of 2022 diminished when on Lap 48 of 72, the VSC was deployed after Tsunoda’s peculiar decison to stop on the side of the track after reporting a tyre issue. The Japanese racer drives for Red Bull’s sister outfit Alpha Tauri, which raised further eyebrows at the timing of his incident.

On Lap 47, Tsunoda reported that he felt like one of his tyres was loose. He was ready to disembark and loosened his seatbelt, but the team cleared the issue and asked him to return to the pits. The 22-year-old drove back with his belts unstrapped, and after a few checks and a tyre change in the pits he was cleared to rejoin the race only to be told to stop after just four corners.

Toto Wolff is hoping for a clean title fight next weekend
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/POOL via AFP

The VSC was deployed to clear the Alpha Tauri, which effectively gave Verstappen a free second pit stop that allowed him to retain his lead over Hamilton. The Dutchman did fall behind Hamilton later in the race after a third stop under the safety car, but managed to pass the Briton to take the race win thanks to his fresh tyres.

However, Wolff was not convinced about Tsunoda’s bizarre stoppage and raised questions about its timing. The Austrian is certain the VSC changed the outcome of the race, as Hamilton would certainly have been ahead if Verstappen’s second pitstop occurred under normal racing conditions.

“If we were to fight for a championship, that would be something I would closely look at,” Wolff told Sky Sports, when asked if the FIA should investigate the incident.

“The driver stopped, unbuckled, did a full lap, came in, the problem wasn’t solved, they put the seatbelts back on and he drove out and stopped the car again,” he added. “That probably has changed the outcome of the race that we maybe could have won.”

The Dutch Grand Prix was the closest Mercedes have come to challenging Red Bull for a win in 2022. If not for the VSC, and a late strategy error by Mercedes under the Safety Car, Hamilton was likely to have ended his longest winless streak since making his debut in 2007.

Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP

This article is copyrighted by IBTimes.co.uk, the business news leader

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