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Opinion: Is Yuki Tsunoda Ready to Make the Jump to Red Bull?

Written by Oli James, Edited by Sean McKean

Yuki Tsunoda entered the world of Formula 1 in 2021 with Red Bull Racing’s sister-team, AlphaTauri. Despite an impressive debut race, where he took two points and finished in ninth, the Japanese rookie was slammed by fans and pundits alike for a series of unforced errors and mistakes during the rest of the season.

A similar trend continued in 2022. With Pierre Gasly, his teammate, accumulating close to double the number of points that he took by the end of the season, Tsunoda’s languishing was a result of continued ‘rookie errors’ and mistakes.

However, seven races into the 2023 season, Tsunoda is quietly impressing viewers by outshining his teammate Nyck de Vries and making many calculated maneuvers. With Sergio Perez’s Red Bull contract ending at the end of 2024, the question arises: is Yuki Tsunoda ready to replace him at the championship winning team?

Given Tsunoda’s mediocre performances in 2021 and 2022, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that he is not a particularly talented driver. However, in my opinion, this could not be further from the truth.

Tsunoda stormed through junior categories and took several victories in Japanese Formula 4, Formula 3, Euroformula Open, and Formula 2. In his sole season of Formula 2 in 2020, the Japanese driver impressed by finishing third in the standings with Carlin and achieving a respectable three race wins and seven podiums. The fact that he achieved such results in a single season is a testament to his innate abilities. Yuki was praised all throughout his junior career for his raw talent and adaptability. Carlin’s team boss, Trevor Carlin, credited him as being “naturally fast” and AlphaTauri Team Principal, Franz Tost, described him as “a fast learner.”

Whilst his first two years in the sport were certainly less than ideal, it is essential to consider the greater context. Tsunoda quickly progressed through junior categories and the jump from these feeder series into the pinnacle of motorsport is certainly a significant one. It is not uncommon for even the most talented of drivers to make mistakes and struggle to ‘find their feet’ during this transition period. This pressure and intensity of Formula 1 coupled with AlphaTauri’s high expectations was always going to take Tsunoda some time to adjust to.

Whilst you may remember 2021 as a year of shunts and mistakes from the rookie, he also showed undeniable glimpses of potential. As previously mentioned, an impressive first race at the Bahrain Grand Prix saw him take his first points and show the world his skills. It was arguably at the next race though, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, that knocked his confidence, having had a crash during qualifying for the event at Imola.

What followed was a series of mediocre results and scarce points finishes. Things were looking bright at the end of the season, however, as Tsunoda took fourth place at 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after driving a clean, solid race. You may be forgiven for forgetting this result given the drama that was unfolding during that race. Additionally, the lack of results in 2022 can not entirely be blamed on the driver alone. The AT03 was not exactly a revolutionary piece of machinery and both of the team’s drivers were quite vocal about this.

So far in the 2023 season though, Tsunoda has proved his talent that made him so desirable to Franz Tost and Helmut Marko. Whilst it may appear Tsunoda is nothing to write home about so far this year, only holding two points to his name thus far, he has shown incredible consistency with an average race finishing position of P11 compared to teammate De Vries’ P15. If there was anything holding Yuki back before, it was his consistency; however, this season, he appears to have hit the ground running and regained his confidence.

The standings also do not tell the full story as he should have many more points but poor reliability and penalties handed by the FIA have prevented him from scoring more. The ability to perform well regularly is of course a vital aspect of driving at the top level and I am certain that the team in Milton Keynes will be observing Tsunoda very closely. He will have to keep up the level of consistency he has shown this year (and not slip back to where he was in previous seasons) if he wants a shot with Red Bull.

Another important attribute that championship-winning teams need from drivers is impeccable mental strength and motivation. Yuki Tsunoda has always been known for his fiery temper, but, unfortunately, this is not an advantageous trait in motorsport. This is the very reason why Helmut Marko arranged for him to work with a psychologist. The outbursts were viewed as having a negative impact on his performance.

As well as managing his temper, he will also have to ensure to not let himself lose motivation by decisions he views as unjust. It’s no secret that after the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, Tsunoda was not happy to be awarded a five-second time penalty, after it was decided he forced Zhou Guanyu to run wide on lap 56 of the race. This decision certainly angered the AlphaTauri racer who told Autosport that he felt it was “ridiculous” and “really unfair.” After the race, Tsunoda could be seen with his head in his hands and looking visibly upset. It is important if he wants a top-drive that he does not let these incidents affect his motivation and he continues to drive to the highest standard.

In conclusion, Yuki Tsunoda is certainly a contender to replace Sergio Perez when he departs from Red Bull Racing. He undeniably has the talent and potential to drive with a championship winning-team and to fight at the front of the pack. It is, however, vital that over the course of this season, and next season, that he continues to perform well regularly and keep his anger to a minimum. Red Bull Racing are a highly regarded team and will have a plethora of options to replace the Mexican driver when he departs from the team and so it is essential for Tsunoda to keep himself in the form he has found this year if he wishes to one day take a seat at the multi championship-winning team.

1 comment

1 Kommentar

13. Juni 2023

No way...Japan is not a big enough market for Red Bull and Tsunoda isn't yet showing strong enough form. As much as its a bit harsh, using De Vries as the comparison of Tsunoda's pace is like comparing a running race between Usain Bolt and one of the UKs best known runners, Boris Johnson.

I think both drivers are under pressure, De Vries because he has sadly landed a terrible car to debut in, so hasn't shown his class, Tsunoda because he just hasn't been quite good enough.

Tost has slammed the engineering team, Red Bull would like to sell but can't... not much to like at present. I hope wistfully that Paul Stoddart and Gian Carlo Minardi put a…

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