Over the last 12 months, there have been several suggestions that Tsunoda will crumble against his teammates. First, it was Nyck de Vries who was expected to become the “team leader” at AlphaTauri.
The likes of Helmut Marko and Franz Tost were already anointing the Dutchman as the next “team leader” at AlphaTauri before even setting a lap.
Evidently, with Red Bull deciding to put Daniel Ricciardo in the AlphaTauri after the British GP, Tsunoda was more than a match for his experienced teammate.
Ricciardo’s return to Formula 1 was understandably met with excitement and anticipation. After all, the Australian is one of the most decorated drivers on this year’s grid.
An impressive return in Hungary, where he out-qualified and out-raced Tsunoda, was soon followed by claims that he was already faster than his Japanese teammate.
Despite the consistent performances put together by Tsunoda in an underwhelming ATO4 this season, the mainstream narrative seemed to ignore this fact completely.
After all, however impressive a drive might be, fighting for P10 is hardly enough to capture headlines after an F1 Grand Prix.
Fast-forward to the Belgian GP, and Tsunoda put together another determined and well-executed performance – much like those that have characterised his season.
A strong qualifying put him within striking range of points, with a fast start putting the 23-year-old comfortably in the top 10 – especially after overtaking the damaged SF-23 of Carlos Sainz.
Fine margins (such as the brief spell of rain that saw Lando Norris turn his afternoon around) relegated the AlphaTauri driver from a potential top 7 result to the bottom of the points.
Once again, the nature of this result would never become a major talking point post-Grand Prix.
Regardless of the adulation given to this drive, Yuki Tsunoda was again capable of putting his car further up the field than it deserved.
Perhaps more importantly, the #22 was more than a match for Daniel Ricciardo – who will face a significant challenge to get the best of his new teammate after the summer.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang