Yuki Tsunoda: “I tried to copy Alonso as much as possible” to defend from Hamilton in Turkey ’21

Alpha Tauri's Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda drives during the qualifying session of the 2023 Formula One Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on April 1, 2023. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --

Yuki Tsunoda has been one of the most consistent performers in 2023, consistently maximising his AT04. Having taken a notable step forward, the 22-year-old says Fernando Alonso is a driver he learns a lot from.

Tsunoda has already demonstrated impressive defensive driving this season, keeping Kevin Magnussen at bay for about 15 laps at the Saudi Arabian GP.

The Japanese driver also showed a spark of magic at the final standing start in Australia, shooting up into a fantastic 5th place before a red flag undid his hard work.

Still, Tsunoda’s wheel-to-wheel abilities are becoming increasingly impressive and refined. Unforced errors are also significantly less common, underscoring his increased maturity in F1.

When discussing his sources of inspiration, Tsunoda made clear who was first on his list:

“I learn a lot from lots of drivers after I stepped up to Formula 1 – especially from Fernando Alonso,” he said on the ‘Beyond the Grid’ podcast.

“In 2021, I think, in Hungary… When Lewis tried to overtake me – obviously, I tried everything to defend as much as possible, but he passed me in maybe four laps. 

“At that point, Alpine and AlphaTauri had similar performance. But Fernando was defending for more than 10 laps. 

“I watched the race, and I was impressed a lot from Fernando… car positioning, also where he tried to gain time on Lewis. 

“At that point, Mercedes was faster than Alpine, but Lewis was in dirty air – and in the last corner of Hungary, it’s very hard to be very close. Because it’s a medium-speed corner, so you need downforce. 

“It wasn’t easy for Lewis, and Fernando knew that. He tried to kind of maximise the performance from the last corner – and he gained as much as possible before the main straight.

“After that, in the Turkish Grand Prix, there was another situation when I had to defend from Lewis.

“And I tried to copy Fernando as much as possible, and I was able to actually defend him for eight laps that time.”

Clearly, Tsunoda is capable of studying and observing other drivers to make improvements – and this is serving him very well.

There was plenty of talk heading into 2023 about Nyck de Vries and his experience, with Helmut Marko suggesting the Dutchman could lead AlphaTauri this season.

However, this could not be further from the truth. After staying within touching distance of Pierre Gasly last year, Tusnoda is now asserting himself as the number one at the Italian outfit.

Although Red Bull is notoriously ruthless with their young drivers, it seems safe to assume that Tsunoda’s place on the F1 grid will be secure if he maintains this level.