AlphaTauri defends Red Bull F1 strategist after online abuse

06 September 2022 - 07:53
By Reuters
Hannah Schmitz, strategy engineer at Red Bull Racing, had been targeted online after the race.
Image: ANP via Getty Images Hannah Schmitz, strategy engineer at Red Bull Racing, had been targeted online after the race.

Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri condemned “accusations of foul play” against the Formula One team and Red Bull's head of strategy after Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda's retirement in Sunday's Dutch Grand Prix led to online abuse.

Tsunoda triggered a virtual safety car (VSC) when he stopped by the side of the track, an incident that ultimately helped Red Bull's race winner and runaway championship leader Max Verstappen.

Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton angrily told his team over the radio during the race at Zandvoort that “that VSC has stuffed us.”

The sequence of events was bizarre, with the Japanese initially pulling over because he feared a wheel was loose and then returning to the pits — from where he was sent out again and promptly stopped.

AlphaTauri said on Monday they and Hannah Schmitz, strategy head for Red Bull, had been targeted online after the race.

“Such hateful behaviour cannot be tolerated, and to entertain accusations of foul play is unacceptable, untrue and completely disrespectful towards both Hannah and us,” the team said in a statement.

“We have always competed independently, fairly and with the highest levels of respect and sportsmanship.

“Yuki had a failure that the team didn't immediately detect which caused him to stop on track. To suggest anything different is insulting and categorically incorrect,” added the statement posted on social media.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and Verstappen both said after the race that the virtual safety car episode had made matters trickier for them.

Hamilton retweeted a message from a fan account calling the comments directed at Schmitz as “intolerable.”

The message was later removed, with the account explaining that it had incited further comments and ended up doing more harm than good.