Yuki Tsunoda feels more comfortable in his third year with AlphaTauri, having strung together a series of impressive performances to start the year.
Inconsistency was one of Tsunoda’s biggest weaknesses in his F1 rookie season, committing several mistakes while experiencing great pace fluctuations.
The youngster showed flashes of great potential, no doubt, but when AlphaTauri offered him a contract for 2022 – it was clear that improvements were necessary.
And progress was certainly made last year, as the Japanese driver was generally able to match his teammate Pierre Gasly – who is typically seen as a solid benchmark.
However, despite this notable progress, Helmut Marko and various F1 pundits were confident that Nyck de Vries could get the better of Tsunoda this season.
This has not been the case, with Tsunoda comprehensively beating his teammate in every category this season.
A more thorough examination of De Vries’ performances in Formula E (including his Championship-winning season) would have perhaps led to different expectations than those set.
Considering that De Vries insisted during pre-season that he should not be called a rookie, the discrepancy between AlphaTauri’s duo is all the more significant.
Tsunoda’s outstanding debut season in Formula 2 (only bested by Oscar Piastri in the years since) seems to have been committed when discussing his potential.
Although it is important not to overstate his current form (in the way people got ahead of themselves after Bahrain 2021), there are reasons to be excited.
Speaking after a strong start to the year, Tsunoda discussed the topic of becoming a team leader:
“I think I have to be, especially since it’s my third year and because we’ve lost Pierre [Gasly], [the team] want someone to trust,” it.motorsport quotes him as saying.
“And I have to be someone who can give a new impetus, especially now that we are having some performance difficulties.
“So I want to be as comfortable as possible in terms of on-track performance, so whatever car they give, at least you know I will give 100%.
“And I want to feel like this. I don’t want the team to worry about my 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.”
These comments are consistent with the increasingly measured, mature version of Tsunoda that we have become accustomed to seeing.
His performances will surely warrant a contract extension in the near future, with Franz Tost, Helmut Marko and other senior figures at Red Bull singing his praises.
After a turbulent first year of his F1 journey, it is safe to say that the 23-year-old is hitting his stride.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang