Tsunoda drove for Carlin in F2 in 2020. Trevor Carlin watched him become the 27th driver to get an F1 seat from his team, and he believes the talented young Japanese will show F1 what he’s got very fast. In the upcoming season he will represent the colours of AlphaTauri, replacing Daniil Kvyat, which left the Russian without a seat for 2021. When it comes to Tsunoda, Carlin said he will quickly start pushing on Gasly.
As he said: “He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with. We’ve only had him for one season, and he did everything and more than what we expected. Time will tell where he ends up in the pecking order, but I think he’s got a very exciting future ahead of him, and as long as he’s not overwhelmed by the F1 environment, I see no reason why he can’t match what Lando [Norris] is doing, and you never know, he could have a little bit of Max [Verstappen] in him. The speed he learns and understands the car, he’s got the natural ability, so it’s just a case of tailoring it to each championship and then getting on with it. If he picks up F1 as fast as he picked up F2 then I think he’ll be giving Pierre a good run for his money once they get back to Europe.”
Tsunoda got into F1 after finishing third in F2 in 2020 as compared to previous Carlin to F1 driver Lando Norris who finished second before his rookie season with McLaren. When asked if he think Tsunoda is ready, Carlin responded he absolutely believes so, just like Norris when he stepped into F1 in 2019.
As he said: “Absolutely – I’ve got no shadow of a doubt. He is lacking a bit of experience compared to Lando, but his overall pace and understanding of driving a racing car is there. He’s ready to go, for sure. The thing with Yuki is, he learns so fast. With F1 you actually get a lot more practice than you do in F2, which will help. He’s got to go to a load of new tracks, but he didn’t seem to have any trouble getting up to speed – Sochi for instance, he was quick. I’m very hopeful. I would expect him to have some incidents in the first few rounds, but once that’s over and done with I think you’ll find he could shock a few people.”
In an interview not so long ago Franz Tost, the principal of AlphaTauri admitted they did have a “Plan B” in case Tsunoda didn’t score enough points to get the super license, but they were committed to plan A and they wanted the Japanese to get the seat in 2021, which he of course did after an incredible performance in his rookie season in F2 in 2020, one that even impressed Helmut Marko.
As Marko said in an interview about Tsunoda: “Tsunoda was the only Formula 2 driver who consistently finished in the top five in every race. Only due to technical defects and a few crashes did he not win the championship, and that in the rookie year. He is characterised by an unbelievable basic speed and a very quick perception and learning phase. If you saw the last races, how he held back at the beginning of the races until the halfway stage, he saved his tyres and then attacked. That was a great mix between aggressiveness and driving with your head. He is an incredibly funny guy with charisma. He is 1.61 metres tall (5ft 3ins) and weighs 58 kilos. The fact we didn’t use him in Formula 1 on a Friday is simply due to the fact the conversion would have taken so long that it was impossible.”
The entering of Tsunoda, the first Japanese in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi, is definitely leaving many of us excited for the upcoming season, hoping he will repeat his spot-on performance from F2 in F1 in 2021.