Yuki Tsunoda


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Yuki Tsunoda

It took a while, but in their final year as an engine supplier in Formula 1, Honda finally got a Japanese driver. Given the loyalty in the Japanese corporate culture, Yuki Tsunoda will probably always be connected to Honda, but that certainly does not mean that he owes his place in F1 solely to that.

F1 Standings

1VERMax VerstappenRed Bull Racing454
2LECCharles LeclercFerrari308
3PERSergio PerezRed Bull Racing305
4RUSGeorge RussellMercedes AMG F1 team275
5SAICarlos SainzFerrari246
6HAMLewis HamiltonMercedes AMG F1 team240
7NORLando NorrisMcLaren122
8OCOEsteban OconAlpine F1 team92
9ALOFernando AlonsoAlpine F1 team81
10BOTValtteri BottasAlfa Romeo F1 team49
11RICDaniel RicciardoMcLaren37
12VETSebastian VettelAston Martin F1 team37
13MAGKevin MagnussenHaas F125
14GASPierre GaslyScuderia AlphaTauri23
15STRLance StrollAston Martin F1 team18
16SCHMick SchumacherHaas F112
17TSUYuki TsunodaScuderia AlphaTauri12
18ZHOGuanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo F1 team6
19ALBAlexander AlbonWilliams4
20LATNicholas LatifiWilliams2
21DEVNyck de VriesWilliams2
22HULNico HulkenbergAston Martin F1 team0

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.