Zhou “pretended” I forced him off claims Tsunoda after “ridiculous” penalty

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Yuki Tsunoda says he was given an “unfair” penalty in the Spanish Grand Prix because rival Guanyu Zhou pretended he had been forced off the track.

The AlphaTauri driver was given a five-second time penalty after the stewards ruled he forced his rival off-track at turn one on lap 56.

“It was a ridiculous penalty,” Tsunoda told media including RaceFans at the Circuit de Catalunya after the race. “It feels really unfair.”

Tsunoda held the inside line for turn one when he came under attack from Zhou. He accused his rival of feigning being forced wide.

Race start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Spanish Grand Prix in pictures
“I left the room and I feel like he just gave it up early stages,” said Tsunoda. “He went outside and pretended like he got forced out.

“But definitely there was still space outside there. Obviously I give pressure but there’s still space behind me. So I don’t understand why there’s a penalty. Feels really harsh.”

The penalty was announced before the end of the race. Tsunoda said the stewards should have spoken to the two drivers before issuing it.

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“It’s good to have a bit of discussion with the FIA because they gave five seconds without discussion and race is over,” he said. “It feels unfair.”

The stewards ruled Zhou was entitled to be given racing room but Tsunoda did not leave him enough. “Car 24 [Zhou] was in front at and after the apex of turn 1 and hence under the driving standards guidelines was entitled to racing room. Car 22 [Tsunoda] moved across to the outside of the corner, forcing car 24 off the track.”

AlphaTauri’s head of vehicle performance Guillaume Dezoteux praised Tsunoda’s driving but acknowledged he failed to leave Tsunoda enough space. “Yuki drove fantastically,” he said. “He was able to stay with Ocon for most of the race, which is encouraging regarding our race pace.

“Unfortunately, while defending Zhou in turn one, he didn’t leave enough space at the apex and received a five-second penalty for this, ending up P12.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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20 comments on “Zhou “pretended” I forced him off claims Tsunoda after “ridiculous” penalty”

  1. Obviously I give pressure

    It wasn’t that obvious when he was “”fighting”” Pérez.

    He ran Zhou wide hoping he’d bail out. He did, and for once the stewards remembered that the rules are very clear:

    Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited. (FIA Code Appendix L, IV.2b)

    This is one of the very few times the word ‘strictly’ is used in the entirety of FIA regulations.

    So well done, stewards! Driving someone off isn’t racing. If Tsunoda wanted to go around the left edge of the track he should have stayed there in the braking zone.

    1. He ran Zhou wide hoping he’d bail out. He did, and for once the stewards remembered that the rules are very clear:

      ” Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited. (FIA Code Appendix L, IV.2b)”

      Yep, since he wasn’t driving a Red Bull the regulations regarding forcing off track must apply.

    2. Coulthard and Palmer, who were announcing the F1 TV broadcast, both called the penalty ridiculous and noted how if that’s how the rules work the entire way drivers drove and tried to overtake would change. I trust them over you. And as someone who races myself as well and has watched basically every post-1980 F1 race, that was an absurd penalty.

      With safety cars for gravel, black and whites for breaking rows, safety cars for cars pulled safely off track, red flags and safety cars for wet conditions once considered nothing special, etc. despite having the safest cars ever and the safest tracks ever, F1 is becoming a bit of a joke every single Charlie Whiting died. It’s sad to see.

  2. Verstappen did the same but no penalty there it seemed. He even violated track limits to maintain his position.

  3. He is in his third year and still making such mistakes. And his atitude hasn’t changed – he always blames others instead of trying to learn from his own mistakes. Never saw him as great talent and he didn’t prove me wrong over these years. Red Bull should’ve replaced him after last season with more promising driver, like Lawson.

    1. Actually, Yuki has been very mature with admitting mistakes and is driving brilliantly this year. Lawson was much worse than Yuki in F2 comparing rookie years. Also, Verstappen and George got away with much worse moves during the race

  4. Good luck keeping this new ruling consistent (and it is a new interpretation). It will now be fine for drivers to launch speculative passes on the outside and ‘expect’ room all the way around the corner. If you look at replays, Zhou indeed bails out very early (check when he starts applying left lock) while still half a metre away from Tsunoda. Had a wall been there, Zhou would never have tried the pass, he was too far back.
    Also: how come Tsunoda gets a time penalty for this and Russell only a warning for a far more dangerous (if accidental) move that ended up causing a collision and shoving Hamilton off-track in q2? Makes no sense.

  5. Was up there as one of the most absurd and unnecessary penalties.

    Trying to pass around the outside is and always has been a risk which is why outside passes used to be less common and amazing when someone pulled one off.

    Zhou wasn’t fully alongside and he also still had room to bail out well before he decided to just turn left into the runoff.

    It was always going to be a closing gap and he should have known that and bailed out just as all the ex drivers on the sky & f1tv broadcasts pointed out. But what do actual former drivers who were racing when real hard racing was allowed know right?

    1. Indeed. Though but fair defending (I bet Zhou wouldn’t have attempted, or bailed out – if there hadn’t been a run-off area) if this isn’t allowed what is?

      Or else the FIA should consider a new rule that once a driver is within a second of a driver in front, this driver should then yield and give up his position in a safe and orderly fashion making sure the approaching driver isn’t hindered in any form or way!

    2. Passing on the outside is a risk because a driver has to carry a lot more speed into the corner on a not-ideal line. It’s not supposed to be a risk because the guy (marginally) ahead can just run his competitor off.

      Unfortunately, F1 failed to clamp down on this when Senna made it popular, and then drivers afterwards just ran with it whilst the FIA sat around and did nothing.

      The drivers know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not a coincidence they all used to speak highly of battling with Räikkönen because he was one of the few who didn’t engage in these shenanigans. They just do it because they can get away with it. If the FIA drew a line they’d all stop doing it.

      1. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, taking the extra risk of overtaking on the outside shouldn’t mean the defending driver just has to yield and be extra careful?! Zhou wouldn’t have attempted his overtake without the run-off area and knew damn well how it would turn out (clever move from his side but not much racing about that).

    3. The readers/comments in every other forum/site I’ve read are in almost complete consensus this penalty was absurd.

  6. If you go for an outside pass, you better have the speed and grip needet to finish it before the return to the racing line, else you’re going to have to back off, or end up off the track. Always has been, always should be.
    It’s a show of dominance, and if you’re not dominant, you’re off. Zhou should be careful not to attempt it againg if he doesn’t have the speed. Tsunoda did nothing wrong, he covered the inside and returned to the racing line while Zhou was in no position to demand Tsunoda just give him the racing line.
    Just let them race.

  7. Zhou chickened out.

  8. It was the highlight of a dead boring race. Ban DRS and add gravel, I’m sure they would have fought it fair.

  9. It was fair. Watch Anthony Davidson’s analysis.

  10. What’s ridiculous about a clear-cut case of forcing off a driver considerably enough alongside to have a right to space?
    He simply messed up by failing to give Zhou the space he deserved as required in such situations, so tough luck, but the penalty was entirely justified.

    1. But did he fail to leave space? It looked to me like there was a car’s width on the outside, and Zhou just bottled it… Though I admit I haven’t seen any replays, so I’m happy to be proved wrong.

      1. I’ve just watched the replays… I don’t think he really intended not to leave space, he looked like was at full lock, but there would have been a collision if Zhou hadn’t taken avoiding action. Given the rules as they stand, he should probably have backed off and allowed Zhou the place, so I can understand the penalty but I still feel it was a little harsh on Tsunoda.

  11. Zhou was slightly in front at the apex so he was entitled to space. Still there was some space on the outside but that gap is always going to disappear if you stay on the raceline.
    After the replays I can understand the decision of the stewards based on the current rules. However I don’t always agree with the rule that you have to leave (a car width) space as in this case Yuki was still on the normal racing line and it would compromise his corner and the next if he had to leave more space than he did. If you want to overtake someone on the outside I think you have to be sure you can make it stick. On top of that the 5s penalty’s sometimes feel more than a lottery than a clear consistent decission so not in favour of these penalty’s

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