Is Yuki Tsunoda lucky to have a seat in Formula 1?

17-09-2021 19:00
General

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in Formula 1 with a whole heap of expectation on his shoulders and I think it is fair to say he hasn’t quite lived up to it just yet. He’s regularly beaten by his teammate, he’s often elminated early in qualifying and he’s made some crucial errors leading to accidents. With his seat confirmed for next season I thought I’d compare him to his predecessors and ask the question, is Yuki Tsunoda lucky to have a drive in Formula 1?

Tsunoda's way to Formula 1

Tsunoda joined Alpha Tauri after just one season in Formula 2 so he is clearly super talented. He came third in F2 to Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott, the former was always destined to take the F2 crown last year and was a deserving winner, but Tsunoda caught the eye just as much, with plenty of guile and some brilliant racing. He seemed a clear upgrade on Danil Kvyat who appeared to have gone a bit stale and maybe needed a fresh start.

Tsunoda was confirmed for 2021 but it hasn’t be plain sailing since then. Crashes, poor results and struggles to adapt to the top tier have made for an underwhelming debut season and this is only amplified by the fact Pierre Gasly is so supreme in the Alpha Tauri.

Harsh criticism?

A few weeks ago I predicted that Tsunoda would be looking for a drive elsewhere with Red Bull and Alpha Tauri tired of his form. Now that hasn’t happened and he has got a seat for next year but I think he’s incredibly lucky. There’s always so much talk around the second driver at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen but in my opinion the talk should be around Yuki Tsunoda. Yet we hear next to nothing in regards to criticism or speculation in regards to his place in the Alpha Tauri lineup. One man who is never afraid to make his feelings clear is Helmut Marko. Now I’m not Dr Marko’s biggest fan and normally he’s more than happy to dig out any driver other than the Red Bull golden boy. In the past he’s criticised Alex Albon for incidents which weren’t his fault and even as recently as Spa he had a dig at Sergio Perez when he crashed on his way to the grid, saying: "The conditions are certainly borderline, but something like this shouldn‘t happen in the warm-up lap.."

Marko’s criticism of drivers baffles me, in no way does it pick up drivers, it just kicks them further into the mud. Now there’s a chance I’ve missed something, I don’t read everything he says, but I’ve never seen him bash Tsunoda LIKE HE HAS OTHERS IN THE PAST.

The Japanese driver appears to be in Verstappen’s  special club which makes him exempt from Marko’s wrath. Now from what I understand, which is very little in the grand scheme of things, Marko was a big fan of Tsunoda and was instrumental in helping the first Japanese driver since Kamui Kobyashi make the step up to the pinnacle of motorsport, and in previous interviews Tsunoda himself has praised the role of Marko.

So in that respect it is understanding that the Austrian is keeping tight lipped when it comes to the driver. However, it makes comments he’s made about previous drivers even more harsh when their form was arguarbly far better. 

The numbers

Now it is only fair we look at the numbers and see how he fairs against drivers he’s replaced or is up against. First up we’ve Tsunoda vs Alex Albon, we’ve got Albon’s first 13 races at Alpha Tauri and Tsunoda’s. Albon’s displays were eye catching and earned him a promotion, Tsunoda on the other hand well his form is nowhere near promotion worthy. Albon scored 1.33 points per race during his stint at Alpha Tauri whilst Tsunoda can only manage 1.28 despite completing two more races for the team

Next up we have Danil Kvyat the man he replaced, and he scored a 31 points from his last 14 races at Alpha Tauri compared to Tsunoda’s 18 since his debut. A respectable tally for the Russian but nothing huge when you look at the man we will mention shortly.

Arguably the most damning of the lot Pierre Gasly. The same materials, the same footing. Pierre Gasly by far and away out shines Tsunoda. Qualifying, points the lot, it’s not even close really and actually a little embarassing. The Frenchman has 66 points this season, a podium in Baku and a fastest lap in hungary. Now Gasly is a clearly a very talented driver, but Tsunoda should be doing better in my eyes

Yuki Tsunoda may still come good. I am certainly not writing him off. He’s young, has shown flashes of his ability and it might just take time. However, if there’s one thing the Red Bull academy is famed for it certainly isn’t time. So Tsunoda will be in F1 next season but he’ll need to start delivering else he could be the next casualty of Red Bull driver academy. 

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