After Pierre Gasly’s farewell to Alpine at the end of the 2022 season, Yuki Tsunoda has become the reference rider within AlphaTauri, the one with the most experience. The Japanese is in his third year in the category and, after two championships made up of ups and downs, this season should be the one of redemption, the one in which he would finally show his talent.
For now, the Japanese has done well, picking up two points thanks to two tenth places in the Australian and Azerbaijan Grands Prix, while on three occasions he stopped right on the edge of the top ten.
Franz Tost, Team Principal of the team from Faenza, has never hidden that from his point of view a driver needs at least three years in Formula 1 to fully understand a top-class car and to be evaluated.
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
A perspective on which Tsunoda also agrees, above all because the new generation ground effect cars would be simpler than those of the previous set of regulations, faster and more complex to take to the limit.
“I think Franz (Tost) was referring to the understanding of the car. I struggled a bit, but I’m still learning differently. I think last year I was probably okay, I think I raced on par, maybe more in dry conditions, especially compared to Pierre (Gasly)”, explained the Japanese.
“In terms of performance that can be extracted from a car, certainly the more years go by the simpler it becomes. But yes, the third year, it will be useful, but at the same time I think these cars will also help the rookies, they have 18 inch tires and it is not as fast as a 2021 car. It is very different. And I think the 2021 car is a lot harder to push to the limit, which I’ve heard, while this car is a bit more controllable, so maybe that helps.”
Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
From 2022 to 2023 many things have changed, starting with the role of leader within the team. With Gasly’s farewell, Tsunoda is now the point of reference for the team, the rider with the most experience, especially with rookie de Vries by his side, who is still in the learning phase. A role that the Japanese is beginning to feel on his shoulders, but which he finds essential for giving the team security, knowing he has a rider he can count on regardless of the vehicle.
“Yes, definitely (I feel more like a leader). And I guess I have to be, especially since it’s my third year and because we’ve lost Pierre, (they) want someone to trust. And I have to be one of those people who can give a new impetus, especially now that we are having some difficulties from a performance point of view. So I want to at least be as comfortable as possible regarding the performance on the track, whatever car they give Yuki, at least you know he will give 100%.
“And I want to feel like this. I don’t want the team to worry about the rider’s performance, which I don’t think happened when Pierre was there, especially in 2021. I feel I have more leadership. I’m starting to feel more like a leader,” Tsunoda explained.
Another central element is the change of mentality compared to the past, with the idea of being able to give the maximum in every appointment, in every qualifying and in every race, a sensation that had blocked him last year. The desire to have no regrets, having realized how central Formula 1 is in his life, are two central themes in this change of perspective. Furthermore, although the contract issue is still far from resolved, the Japanese explained that he did not want to leave this topic in the background, focusing on the track, an aspect which in 2022 had instead weighed heavily when he still did not know his future.
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
“Well, first of all, especially in this third year, if I have to continue to do what I was doing last season, if I’m not doing as well as I want or should do, I know I can do it. In every race I did last year I had the feeling that I could have done more, even in qualifying I tried these things and you know, especially in my third year, anything can happen and if you keep going like this, you lose your place. So I was able to think about how much Formula 1 means to me, how much motorsport means to me.”
“That helps, of course. I’ve seen a couple of documentaries and I don’t want to be like the one who has a lot of regrets, who wasn’t able to give his all in Formula 1 and now he’s gone. So these things, like the mindset, make me stronger and make me realize that it’s time to really change myself, professionally and everything.”
“I didn’t even try to change, I just tried to be as relaxed as possible. Being comfortable, as usual, but at the same time making sure I enjoy every race and give my good performances, give my best, not much has changed.”