Yuki Tsunoda


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Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda entered Formula 1 as a Honda protégé, but that certainly does not mean that he owes his place on the grid to that alone. The Japanese driver - who, in Helmut Marko's words, has acquired something of a cult status - has shown on several occasions that he has the necessary dose of talent and speed, but is still too erratic at times. Despite that, Tsunoda had a contract extension that will see him remain at Visa Cash App RB in 2025.

F1 Standings

1Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing219
2Lando NorrisMcLaren150
3Charles LeclercFerrari148
4Carlos SainzFerrari116
5Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing111
6Oscar PiastriMcLaren87
7George RussellMercedes AMG F1 team81
8Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG F1 team70
9Fernando AlonsoAston Martin F1 team41
10Yuki TsunodaVisa Cash App RB19
11Lance StrollAston Martin F1 team17
12Daniel RicciardoVisa Cash App RB9
13Oliver BearmanHaas F16
14Nico HulkenbergHaas F16
15Pierre GaslyAlpine F1 team5
16Esteban OconAlpine F1 team3
17Alexander AlbonWilliams2
18Kevin MagnussenHaas F11
19Guanyu ZhouStake F1 Team0
20Valtteri BottasStake F1 Team0
21Logan SargeantWilliams0

Red Bull and Honda join forces

Tsunoda's path to F1 began when Honda and Red Bull decided to team up in 2017. There was also an interest in a partnership between the two companies' talent programmes, and when Helmut Marko went to Japan to see what Honda had to offer, Tsunoda immediately caught the eye.

At the time, he was in his first full season in Japanese Formula 4. A year in which he already managed to win several times and eventually finished third in the final standings. When he became champion a year later, Marko decided to bring Tsunoda to Europe to compete in the renewed Formula 3.

Rapid development in Europe

In a field of more than 30 participants, he was initially snowed under between talents such as Robert Shwartzman and Jüri Vips. The circuits, the opponents, the cars, everything was new to him. By the end of the season, however, he got the hang of it and made it to the podium three times in a row.

At Monza, he even managed to win, which ultimately put him in the top ten of the championship. Normally, these results would be reason enough for a second year in Formula 3, but with the title as the ultimate goal. However, Red Bull and Honda were in a hurry and had enough faith in Tsunoda's qualities to promote him straight to Formula 2.

Tsunoda can perform under high pressure

The pressure for that first F2 season was intense. Both Honda and Red Bull had a vested interest in him being successful. Red Bull was struggling to fill the seats at Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri after the departure of Daniel Ricciardo, and this provided the ideal opening for a Japanese Honda protégé.

To qualify for his super license, Tsunoda had to finish at least fifth. A task he seemed unable to meet at the start of 2020. Gradually, however, he found his feet and took some nice victories.

Until the end of the season it was uncertain whether he would get his super license, but a strong weekend in Bahrain showed that he not only has the right racing qualities, but also the mental strength to perform well. Here he truly deserved his Grand Prix debut.

Tsunoda makes inconclusive F1 debut

As a replacement for Daniil Kvyat, Tsunoda made his Formula One debut at AlphaTauri. Given his affiliation with Honda, his fate was partly tied to the Japanese engine supplier, which is leaving Formula 1 in 2022. So it remained to be seen how long he could stay.

His debut was shaky, but the young Japanese driver showed on a couple of occasions that he had the necessary talent. Halfway through the season his contract was extended, something he expressed his surprise about. He ended his debut season with a fine fourth place, his best result of the year.

Yuki Tsunoda in 2024

Tsunoda also had a shaky season in 2022, with the hot-tempered Japanese driver seeming to get in his own way mainly mentally. Then-AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko continued to express their confidence in the driver, and he got another chance to prove that against three different teammates in 2023.

It is clear that Red Bull still believe in Tsunoda's talent and a true project has therefore been made of training the young Japanese and making him mentally resilient. In 2024, he is consistently beating his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.