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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has issued a grovelling apology after referring to Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda as ‘Tsunami’ following the Dutch Grand Prix.
Tsunoda was at the centre of one of the race’s main talking after pulling off the track and seemingly into retirement. However, having started to undo his seat belts, the AlphaTauri driver was instructed to drive back to the pits.
Once he did, his seat belts were refitted and his tyres changed before he was sent back out again, only for a problem to be detected on his car, prompting his engineer to tell him to pull over and retire.
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That triggered a virtual safety car and meant Max Verstappen, of AlphaTauri’s sister team Red Bull, could make a pitstop and keep the lead ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The incident did not affect Ferrari’s result as they were off the pace compared to Red Bull and Mercedes anyway, with Charles Leclerc taking third and Carlos Sainz eighth after a couple of slow pitstops.
As he discussed the race, Binotto referred to the Tsunoda incident and used a crass nickname to describe the former Formula 2 star. ”We called him [Leclerc] back [to the pits] when 'Tsunami' stopped in the pits,” said the under-fire Ferrari boss.
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The insensitive comment attracted criticism, particularly as tsunamis have had devastating consequences in recent years. A tsunami in Japan in 2011 caused more than 20,000 deaths.
And speaking ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Binotto said sorry for his choice of words. “Certainly, I need to apologise. It was a mistake by using that word,” he said. “There was no intention to do anything wrong. I am very close to the victims which, honestly, I realise.
“I think Tsunoda is a fantastic driver. He is a great man and we have a good relationship between the two [of us]. As you said, it was a simple joke but it was a bad joke."
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