Yuki Tsunoda impressed during his debut for AlphaTauri with a ninth place in the race. The team is very pleased...
In Honda's final year as an active engine supplier in Formula 1, they finally have a Japanese driver. Given the loyalty, Yuki Tsunoda will likely always remain attached to Honda, but that's not to say he owes his place in F1 to that alone.
Red Bull and Honda join forces
Tsunoda's path to F1 began when Honda and Red Bull decided to partner up in 2017. They also saw something in a partnership between the talent programs of both companies and when Helmut Marko went to Japan to see what Honda had to offer, Tsunoda immediately noticed.
At the time, he was working on 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 let him participate in the renewed Formula 3.
Lightning-fast development in Europe
The tracks, the opponents, the cars, everything was new to him. By the end of that season, however, he got the hang of this, driving to the podium three times in a row.
He even managed to win in Monza, which eventually made him finish in the top ten of the championship. Normally these results would be the reason for a second year of Formula 3, but with the title as the end goal. At Red Bull and Honda, however, they were in a hurry and there was enough confidence in Tsunoda's qualities to have him immediately promoted to Formula 2.
Tsunoda can perform under high pressure
The pressure for that first season of F2 was greatly increased. Both Honda and Red Bull had a great interest in his success. After the departure of Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull had the greatest difficulty in filling their seats at Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri with suitable drivers and that offered the ideal opening for a Japanese Honda protégé.
To be eligible for his super license, Tsunoda had to be at least fifth. A task that he seemed unable to meet at the beginning of 2020. Gradually, however, he started to find his feet and achieved some nice victories.
Until the end of the season, it remained exciting whether he would get his super license, but with a very strong weekend in Bahrain, he showed that he not only had the right racing qualities, but also sufficient mental toughness. Here he really deserved his Grand Prix debut.
Yuki Tsunoda in 2021
As a replacement for Daniil Kvyat, Tsunoda will be the first Formula 1 driver to be born in the 2000s. Yet the question is how long he can stay in Formula 1. His fate remains partly linked to Honda and that name will no longer appear on one of Red Bull's cars from 2022.
Should Red Bull continue with the Honda engines under a different name, it is expected that Tsunoda will also be allowed to stay. If not, he will have to leave a crushing impression on Helmut Marko alongside Pierre Gasly. He apparently has the talent for that, but that must first translate to an F1 car.
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