Yuki Tsunoda calls out F1 rival for 'pretending' over penalty

Alpha Tauri dreiver Yuki Tsunoda was despondent after the Spanish GP, as F1 fans were in uproar over a penalty he copped late in the race.

A despondent Yuki Tsunoda is consoled by an Alpha Tauri team member after his Spanish GP penalty.
Yuki Tsunoda copped a five-second penalty for a late race incident that robbed him of a points finish at the Spanish Grand Prix, leaving the Japanese driver devastated. Pictures: Getty Images

Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda has fumed at Alfa Romeo rival Zhou Guanyu after being hit with a five-second penalty at the Spanish Grand Prix that cost him a valuable F1 points finish. Max Verstappen was the runaway winner and further extended his championship lead, with Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell filling the remaining podium spots.

Verstappen largely had things his way as he notched his 40th grand prix victory, but was warned by Red Bull to keep within the track limits on the final seven laps. He had been warned by race control several times throughout the race, with one more such indiscretion in the dying laps set to have cost him a five-second penalty of his own.

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Further back was where the drama erupted though, with Zhou attempting to overtake Tsunoda for P9 around the outside of turn one on lap 59. While he was able to all but draw alongside his Japanese rival, Zhou ultimately bailed out of the move and took to the escape road, before rejoining behind the Alpha Tauri.

There had been a decent amount of space between the two drivers, but the stewards deemed Tsunoda had forced Zhou off the track. The decision left Tsunoda incredibly frustrated, saying after the race that Zhou had embellished the closing gap by taking to the escape road and arguing that he'd left his rival plenty of space to work with.

“I feel like he just gave it up really [quick] in early stages and he went outside and pretended like he got forced out," he said after the race. “There was definitely still space outside there.

"Obviously I gave pressure but there was still space. I don’t understand why I got a penalty but feels really unfair and really harsh.”

A points finish for Tsunoda would have doubled both his and the team's points tally for the season, with rookie teammate Nyck de Vries yet to finish in the top 10 this season. The penalty saw Tsunoda tumble back to 12th position, ahead of McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.

Zhou picked up two points for his ninth-place finish as a result, with Alpine's Pierre Gasly promoted to 10th position. On social media, many fans agreed Tsunoda had been hard done by.

Max Verstappen extends F1 championship lead as Mercedes close in

While it was a relatively straightforward day out for Verstappen, he was left somewhat surprised by the performance of the two Mercedes drivers behind him. Though there had been a strange clash between Hamilton and Russell during qualifying the previous day, the pair turned in impressive performances to finish on the podium.

Hamilton started fifth and Russell 12th, making their charge through the field all the more impressive. In a positive sign for Mercedes they had a significantly stronger package than either Ferrari or Aston Martin at Barcelona, with both teams having poor weekends by the standards set in earlier grands prix.

Adding to the Mercedes delight was Hamilton's indication after the race that he could sign a contract extension with the team as early as this week. The 38-year-old is out of contract at the end of this season, but is now widely expected to remain with the team that has helped him to six of his seven world championships.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and George Russell on the podium after the Spanish GP.
Max Verstappen ws the runaway winner at the Spanish GP, followed by Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

“I haven’t signed anything yet, but… I think we’re thinking of meeting with (Mercedes boss Toto Wolff) tomorrow, so hopefully we can get something done!” he said after the race. “I mean, you can see today my results, my performance is not affected by that.

“It’s always something that’s at the back of your mind [though] so once that’s done then you’re able to focus more and think about the future.

“But as I said, I’m working as hard as I can with this team and I see so much strength within the team, I think they’re still so hungry, and the podium today was really, really special, I saw them in the distance, at the back [of the crowd] – they’re always at the back! – but to be able to see the excitement in all the people I’ve worked with in such a long time [is special].

“And when we go back right now, it’ll be a great energy within the office. These guys, they’ll take two seconds to enjoy themselves and be happy and then they’ll go back down into the books and trying to figure out how we can win the next race. That’s what I love about them.”

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