F1 | Dr Helmut Marko: Tsunoda will 'definitely' be Japan's first F1 Champion
Dr Helmut Marko has gone on record saying that Yuki Tsunoda will become Japan’s first ever Formula One Drivers’ Champion – high praise indeed.
Yuki Tsunoda’s rise to the ranks of AlphaTauri in Formula One has been rapid. The Japanese rookie has quickly become a fan favourite due to his honest speaking (at length) and clear delight at being an F1 driver. Tsunoda is living the dream and having already broken records at the opening race of the 2021 F1 season bold predictions have followed. Dr Helmut Marko has gone on record saying that Yuki Tsunoda will become Japan’s first ever Formula One Drivers’ Champion – high praise indeed.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko has a reputation as a man who is very difficult to please, expects a lot from his drivers and rarely gives second chances. Following the performance of AlphaTauri’s Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda in Bahrain this past weekend, Dr Helmut Marko has now made a bold statement which has unsurprisingly hit the headlines.
Dr Helmut Marko was questioned by RacingNews365.com as to whether he believed Yuki Tsunoda was going to become Japan's first Formula One Drivers’ World Champion. The reply which followed was clear and not requiring any interpretation:
"Definitely. Soon he will be a new star Formula 1," Dr Marko stated. "He’s smart and as I said, for 20 years, very mature, they all like him. He is a charming, 20-year-old Japanese guy with a sense of humour. We brought him in Europe, one season in F3, one season in F2, nobody noticed it and bang in Formula 1."
Yuki Tsunoda’s performance in Bahrain has certainly made people notice him now.
Tsunoda became the 65th person to score points on his Formula One debut. However, the records did not stop there seeing how Tsunoda also became the youngest ever Japanese driver to take part in a Formula One race as well as the youngest to score points.
Mick Schumacher claimed the Formula 2 title in 2020 and has also arrived in F1 as a rookie this season – albeit in a far less superior car due to his place at Haas. However, not one to hold back his words, Dr Helmut Marko also made clear that he was in no doubt that Yuki Tsunoda would have beaten the son of seven-time F1 Champion Michael Schumacher to the F2 title - if the Carlin Japanese driver had experienced better reliability:
"Without his technical failures he would have won the championship easy," stated Dr Marko.
Making such a claim is one thing but also adding the word ‘easy’ shows just how highly Yuki Tsunoda is thought of by a leading figure of Red Bull’s Racing program. Therefore, it is safe to say that Red Bull think very highly of their Japanese driver. So much so, that the last time such flowing praise was handed out was for Max Verstappen. For several years, Verstappen has been billed as the next F1 superstar and now in 2021, Red Bull Racing’s talismanic driver looks set to make his long awaited F1 Drivers’ title challenge to the delight of Verstappen’s Orange Army of supporters.
Another reason that Yuki Tsunoda has gained a fan base so quickly is due to his size.
The physical attributes of Tsunoda have been mentioned several times by Sky F1’s presenting team who have expressed their amazement interviewing an F1 driver shorter than their colleague Anthony Davidson. Dr Helmut Marko has also remarked on the height of their Japanese rookie explaining that car designers will relish designing vehicles around the size of Tsunoda although it was not without its challenges.
"159 [centimetres] and 61 kilos, so all designers love him!" Dr Marko commented. "The pedals was the main thing [problem], we had to bring the pedals forward. The simulator we still struggle to have the right seat for him."
Yuki Tsunoda has also demonstrated in his post-race comments following his 9th place in Bahrain that he already has the mindset of a champion. Tsunoda was positioned in 10th as the final lap approached but still wanted more;
"The last stint I think was the best one for me, also in tyre management," he said. "I think for me it was a good pace compared to the other two stints. "I passed Stroll at the last lap in the first corner. It was a really late launch, but I decided that if I couldn't overtake him, I can't sleep all night tonight!
Another attribute associated with a champion is that of being a hard task master and always expecting more. Tsunoda demonstrated this in his post-race comments this past Sunday under the lights in Bahrain:
"Happy, but also a bit disappointed I think, especially because I thought I lost too many positions in the first lap. Also it took time to recover the positions. Yeah, maybe I'm aiming too high, maybe before this race! But for me I just saw that my teammate was doing a better job in the qualifying, and I was aiming for there, so of course I'm not a hundred percent happy.
"But like I say, I'm happy to get points first race, because that is a really positive thing for the team. So I'm not really disappointed. But I would say that I've learned a lot of things in this race, obviously."
Yuki Tsunoda’s teammate, Pierre Gasly, is a superb benchmark for the Japanese racer to be measured by and to better the talent of the much-loved Frenchman will be no mean feat.
In reality discussion of any F1 Drivers’ Championships is obviously several years away. For now, the racing public has a highly motivated and talented Japanese racer to enjoy within the AlphaTauri ranks and a Honda engine to maximise. Inevitably, in Suzuka this year the pandemonium expected for Yuki Tsunoda’s appearance at the Japanese F1 Grand Prix could reach unprecedented levels.
What a year this talented rookie has ahead of him in F1 – enjoy yourself Yuki because we all enjoy watching you.