Yuki Tsunoda has emerged as one of the most consistent drivers in early 2023, performing at a consistently high level and maximising the performance of his AT04 machine.
Despite the hype that has surrounded Nyck de Vries over the winter break, Tsunoda has comprehensively outperformed his new teammate in qualifying and race-trim so far.
Tsunoda missed out on points by fine margins at the first two rounds in Bahrain and Jeddah before finally securing his first top-10 finish of the season in Australia.
Whilst the Japanese driver was denied a potential 5th-place finish by the red flag caused by Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, he will still be pleased to have points on the board in 2023.
Irrespective of his points tally, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Tsunoda’s campaign so far has been his racecraft – specifically, his defensive driving.
The 22-year-old has often found himself running amongst significantly faster cars this season, defending for position in an AT04 machine that has proved well below par in the first three rounds.
In the recent F1 Nation Podcast, presenter Tom Clarkson provided some insight into Tsunoda’s efforts to improve this aspect of his driving:
“I’ve been looking at videos… I was just watching the way Alonso was doing that [defending against Hamilton in Hungary], and I learned a huge amount,” revealed Tsunoda.
The youngster was asked about his defensive skills after his heroic attempts to keep Kevin Magnussen at bay in Jeddah.
Clarkson explained that Tsunoda was referring specifically to Alonso’s defence against Lewis Hamilton in Hungary 2021 – when the Spaniard kept Hamilton behind in significantly slower machinery.
Considering the clear struggles at AlphaTauri this year, Tsunoda has been forced to spend most of 2023 looking at his mirrors – rather than being offensive and looking ahead.
The AT04 machine has fallen short of expectations, with team principal Franz Tost outlining his disappointment in the development, or lack thereof, over the winter.
Given the number of Red Bull drivers in Formula 2 – in addition to Liam Lawson in SuperFormula – there is plenty of pressure on Tsunoda to prove himself this season.
However, if he continues at this level, it seems likely that Red Bull will retain the 22-year-old as he continues to develop as a driver.
Although there have been rumours about the future of AlphaTauri in Formula 1, Yuki Tsunoda can secure his position on the grid by maintaining his current output.