Yuki Tsunoda




Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda entered Formula 1 as a Honda protégé, but that certainly does not mean that he owes his place at AlphaTauri 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. In 2023, he will have to prove that he deserves a permanent seat the following year too.

F1 Standings

1VERMax VerstappenRed Bull Racing44
2PERSergio PerezRed Bull Racing43
3ALOFernando AlonsoAston Martin F1 team30
4SAICarlos SainzFerrari20
5HAMLewis HamiltonMercedes AMG F1 team20
6RUSGeorge RussellMercedes AMG F1 team18
7STRLance StrollAston Martin F1 team8
8LECCharles LeclercFerrari6
9BOTValtteri BottasAlfa Romeo F1 team4
10OCOEsteban OconAlpine F1 team4
11GASPierre GaslyAlpine F1 team4
12MAGKevin MagnussenHaas F11
13ALBAlexander AlbonWilliams1
14TSUYuki TsunodaScuderia AlphaTauri0
15HULNico HulkenbergHaas F10
16SARLogan SargeantWilliams0
17ZHOGuanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo F1 team0
18DEVNyck de VriesScuderia AlphaTauri0
19PIAOscar PiastriMcLaren0
20NORLando NorrisMcLaren0

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 2023

Tsunoda also had a shaky season in 2022, with the hot-tempered Japanese driver seeming to get in his own way mainly mentally. Both AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko continue to express their confidence in the driver, and he will therefore get another chance to prove he is worthy of that trust in 2023.

It is clear that Red Bull believes in Tsunoda's talent and a true project has therefore been made of training the young Japanese and making him mentally resilient. 2023 will see his good friend Pierre Gasly leave for Alpine and be joined instead by the debutant Nyck de Vries.