Yuki Tsunoda F1 future with AlphaTauri under threat

Jaden Diaz
07/09/2023

Yuki Tsunoda is the only point-scorer for AlphaTauri in 2023, becoming a reliable reference for the Faenza outfit. Despite comfortably dispatching Nyck de Vries (against expectations), a sequence of unexpected events put his F1 future at risk.

Tsunoda was widely dismissed going into this season. Helmut Marko and Franz Tost were convinced over winter that Nyck de Vries would set the standard at AlphaTauri. This was not the case, with Red Bull taking the snap decision to replace the Formula E Champion after Silverstone.

Daniel Ricciardo was his replacement, performing well in his comeback in Hungary. However, just a week later, Tsunoda responded by putting together a very impressive weekend in Spa – finishing 10th.

A shock injury for Ricciardo in Zandvoort has given Liam Lawson an opportunity, adding another spanner to the works. The 21-year-old is fast-impressing at AlphaTauri, as evidenced by CEO Peter Bayer’s recent commentaries:

“Liam has been amazing, honestly. I have a huge amount of respect for him and his achievements here in the paddock,” he told PlanetF1.

“Zandvoort was probably the worst possible baptism that you can have…

“What I really like about Liam is how professionally he’s approaching the task, and he’s very calm in the car.

“He will get feedback from engineers and, lap after lap, he will improve. It’s very impressive, really.”

Nobody suspected that Tsunoda’s place at AlphaTauri was at risk a few months ago, but recent developments are somewhat concerning.

After all, Red Bull had the opportunity to offer the 23-year-old a contract during the summer break. His performances in this year’s AT04 are deserving of praise.

Furthermore, considering he was within touching distance of Pierre Gasly last season, the team can be fairly confident in Tsunoda’s level.

However, AlphaTauri CEO Peter Bayer seems intent on assembling a combination of experience and youth for 2024.

Given his complimentary words for Liam Lawson, it can be inferred that (as with most Red Bull drivers) nothing is guaranteed for Tsunoda:

“You need to have one experienced driver and one young one. That’s really what I’m trying to achieve, you know.

“To have an experienced one and a young one… Daniel [Ricciardo] helped us tremendously on setting up the car,” Bayer concluded.

Christian Horner and Helmut Marko’s glowing comments of Daniel Ricciardo, in addition to Bayer’s recently articulated vision, suggest the 8-time race winner could feature on next year’s grid.

At least for now, the senior hierarchy at Red Bull does not seem overly confident in Tsunoda’s abilities.

Misplaced faith in De Vries over winter, a reluctance to offer Tsunoda a contract over summer and Peter Bayer’s recent interview demonstrate a clear pattern of hesitancy.

It should be emphasised that Tsunoda’s departure is not a foregone conclusion. Another driver swap at AlphaTauri would still be a surprise.

With that said, the Japanese driver faces the insecurity most drivers at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri have endured before him.

Helmut Marko recently stated that a full-time contract for Lawson “could happen quickly,” a reminder (if one was ever needed) that anything can change.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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