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Why Yuki Tsunoda deserves a top seat in 2025

Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Tarun Suresh

Image Credit - Evan Buhler, Reuters

As a third of the Formula One season comes to an end, it’s time to look ahead upon the open seats in 2025 and take a good look at who will be in the running for one of the top seats. Currently, there is one open seat in Red Bull and Mercedes each, but there are a few drivers who are vying for a seat that could lift them to race-win contenders and potentially world championship challengers.

Therefore, this series of articles introduces the drivers in contention for these top seats, the reasons why they deserve a top seat, their performance lately, and the seat said driver is in contention for. For this week, we present to you: Yuki Tsunoda.

Image Credits - Peter Fox

Yuki Tsunoda was promoted from Formula Two to Formula One in 2021 after he secured third in the 2020 Formula Two championship, joining AlphaTauri to be paired alongside Pierre Gasly, becoming the first Japanese Formula One driver ever since Kamui Kobayashi’s final season in 2014.

In his rookie season, Tsunoda started off with a surprising points finish in Bahrain, where he came ninth. Then, he went on to score points on six other occasions, with his highest finish coming in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where Tsunoda put on a clinic to secure a fourth-place finish, making textbook overtakes and an excellent race all around.

He finished his rookie season with a career-best 32 points and 14th in the driver’s championship.

However, the following season quickly fell off for Tsunoda, as the performance of the AT03 fell off by a cliff. After getting a solid start to the season, acquiring points in Bahrain, Imola, and Spain, he went on a 12-race period where he scored no points and racked up four DNFs.

He got a tenth-place finish in COTA, then finished the rest of the season with no points finish, ending the season with 17th in the driver’s championship.

Credits - Andrej Isakovic, AFP

In his third season, he started the season off with mixed performances, having three points finishes before the summer break in Australia, Azerbaijan, and Belgium.

After the summer break, he had an unfortunate streak of races that included an engine failure in Monza and a DNF due to a collision in Singapore, but then bounced back in COTA, São Paulo and Abu Dhabi, taking 14 points across those three races. The late-season push proved fruitful, propelling AlphaTauri to eighth place in the constructors' championship and promoting him to 14th place in the driver’s championship.

This season, he has been exceeding all expectations. Eight races into the season, he has already completed five of the races in points range. He has accumulated 19 points, is projected to complete the season with 57 points if he continues performing the way he is and is currently tenth in the drivers' championship.

Tsunoda has consistently outperformed fellow teammate Daniel Ricciardo, beating Ricciardo on qualifying seven to one while holding a dominating advantage of six to one in terms of finishing positions (both DNF in China). 

In a bottom-four car, he has consistently outperformed the Alpines, Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, and his teammate Ricciardo. He has consistently shown that he can perform significantly better than expected with an excellent qualifying pace, making Q3 six times in eight races this season, knocking out drivers from the top five teams left and right.

He also has 32 overtakes so far this season, ranking tied for sixth among all drivers, showing his sharp overtaking skills.

Image Credits - Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images

He has arguably been the most consistent midfield/backmarker driver, scoring points eight times out of the previous thirteen races. Even in races where he ultimately didn’t score points, Tsunoda was still a constant threat.

With a car that isn’t quite literally at the bottom of the field, Tsunoda has shown growth and improvements over the past years.

In his second and third years in Formula One, he has been constantly under scrutiny for his inability to control his temperament while being questioned if he has what it takes to stay in Formula One, let alone challenge for top seats. However, he has risen above all the doubters and naysayers.

He has improved his temperament significantly while continuously showing his beastly mentality, blossoming under pressure from his cycle of teammates, from Red Bull Racing Management (Helmut Marko, Christian Horner), and most importantly, the immense pressure from the court of public opinion.

These qualities, on and off track, are qualities that only top drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, etc. possess.

These are the qualities and skills of a future world champion, and it will be extremely surprising if neither Christian Horner nor Helmut Marko see a star in the making. Currently, Red Bull have a seat up for grabs, but Tsunoda has a few people to beat out if he wants to get a seat.

Drivers such as Carlos Sainz, the Alpine duo, and Sergio Perez will all be in the running to either retain or jump up a top drive in Formula One. Tsunoda already has the Alpines beaten if he can continue on the path he is heading, while Perez continues the abysmal performances, Tsunoda might just be able to beat out Perez for the Red Bull drive.


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