Nikola Tsolov’s ‘incredibly dangerous’ crash with Alex Dunne shocks Australian Grand Prix

Nikola Tsolov’s ‘incredibly dangerous’ crash with Alex Dunne shocks Australian Grand Prix

Alpine F1 academy driver Nikola Tsolov has escaped with a three-place grid penalty over a dangerous incident during Formula 3 practice that stewards deemed “completely avoidable”.

The Australian Grand Prix undercard session was red-flagged with just minutes left on the clock after Alex Dunne crashed out on the back straight after being tapped by his 17-year-old rival.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: F3 drivers collide in shocking practice crash.

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Footage showed Dunne, 18, weaving to warm his tyres with Tsolov arriving quickly behind him on a flying lap.

Tsolov backed off before Dunne straightened his car and moved right to create space, only to instead find himself careening into the wall.

Replays appeared to suggest Tsolov “shoved” Dunne, as a plainly shocked commentator Chris McCarthy assessed.

Dunne was sent careening into the wall by Tsolov. Credit: Fox Sports

“That is going to be investigated by the stewards,” McCarthy said.

“Nikola Tsolov, I don’t know what on earth he was thinking there. He’s gone straight into the side of Alex Dunne, put him into the barriers.

“That was incredibly dangerous driving … I’m not too sure what on earth he was thinking there, I’m not too sure what on earth that was all about.

“That’s going to be something, I’m sure, that will be investigated, and we’ll leave that one to the stewards I think.

“I think the pictures almost spoke for themselves there. A real shame the practice session had to end that way … not the pictures we want to see at the start of what is going to be a fantastic weekend of racing.

“That is really not what you want to see with two drivers trying to make their way up the rankings, in front of the Formula One paddock. That is really not what you want to see at all.

“It could’ve been a whole lot worse, to be honest, a whole lot worse.”

McCarthy said Tsolov “made his feelings (on Dunne’s weaving) very clear” with the hit.

Nikola Tsolov is an Alpine academy junior. Credit: Joe Portlock/Getty Images

Despite the furious reaction to the incident, the stewards opted against a severe punishment after Tsolov and Dunne fronted a hearing on Friday.

Toslov will drop three places from his qualifying position for the next race — Saturday morning’s sprint — and carry two penalty points on his licence.

Dunne received a reprimand after admitting he failed to look in his mirrors for approaching cars while warming up his tyres.

McCarthy in commentary argued “most people” would say Tsolov “got away pretty lightly” — something Alex Brundle agreed with.

“I think he really did,” Brundle said.

“When you see contact in areas of the circuit that are supposed to be flat out, not in a braking zone, not in a corner, it can be a pretty intense penalty.

“I think considering the nature of the contact, you never know what’s gone on further round the race track, but that is a light penalty.”

In the stewards hearing, Dunne apologised for being unaware that Tsolov was approaching from behind while Tsolov admitted “he wanted (Dunne) to be aware of his presence and that he was being impeded”.

“Tsolov deviated from his normal racing line to drive close to Dunne to highlight his presence. He unfortunately misjudged this action and collided with Dunne,” the stewards said.

“Having considered this matter extensively, the stewards determined the actions of Tsolov, while unintended, caused the collision that was completely avoidable.

“The stewards, therefore, impose a grid drop in accordance with previous precedents.”

Tsolov had explained his view of the crash in comments to independent outlet Feeder Series after the session.

“I was a bit confused. I arrived on a push lap and I think (Dunne) was weaving, so I didn’t know where to go to get past him because he was on a cool lap or something,” he said.

“I went to the left side and then I just felt a hit under my rear tyre. So I think it was just a bit of a misunderstanding, but nothing intentional from any side. I think it was just a bit unfortunate.”

Having claimed he “didn’t do anything strange” and was on the racing line, Tsolov was asked directly if the hit was deliberate.

“I have no intention against him. There’s nothing to win in a practice session, so I wouldn’t do something like that,” he said.

Dunne’s team managed to repair his car in time for qualifying at 2pm AEDT.

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