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 2022
Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri will continue with the Honda engine in 2022, but will do so under the name Red Bull Powertrains. Tsunoda will have another chance to prove his talent in the new Formula 1 season and, given the new rules, will do so with a relatively clean slate. He will mainly want to work on achieving more consistent results.