Yuki Tsunoda had a superb Formula One debut in Bahrain. The Japanese rookie announced his arrival to the pinnacle of motorsport with a superb ninth placed-finish. Such a performance resulted in AlphaTauri’s Team Principal Franz Tost labelling his driver’s result as a ‘fantastic job’. Since then, the form of the Japanese rookie has been as unpredictable as the comments that are going to come from his mouth. As demonstrated by the Azerbaijan Grand Prix bringing Tsunoda his first points since Bahrain in the form of a career-best seventh place finish. According to Franz Tost, the key is to find a way for Tsunoda to ‘recognize when he's on the limit’.
During the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Yuki Tsunoda started from seventh and by the end of the first lap had already lost a place to two-time Drivers’ F1 Champion Fernando Alonso, albeit it one he got back later in the race. Unfortunately, for Tsunoda, the red flag restart, which saw him start in sixth, prevented an even better finish having lost position again after the infamous two-lap shootout. Nevertheless, the Japanese rookie’s career-best seventh place brought AlphaTauri a good haul of points to accompany his teammate Pierre Gasly’s superb third place.
AlphaTauri Team Principal, Franz Tost, is clearly impressed by Yuki Tsunoda’s raw pace and natural talent but sometimes feels his rookie racer is not yet able to recognize when he is at the maximum and to go any harder would jeopardise hard fought positions or result in a crash. Motorsport publication Autosport.com, reported Franz Tost’s comments on areas he feels his driver could improve on.
“He has to learn or he has to recognize when he's on the limit,” explained Tost. “If you are in the same tenth with other top drivers, then there's not so much space any more to be faster. And then you must recognize as a driver ‘I can't brake later’, ‘I can't push harder’, not in a way as he thought he can do it, because then you simply end into the tyre wall.
Japanese rookie, Yuki Tsunoda, currently sits in 14th place of the 2021 F1 Drivers’ Championship for AlphaTauri. In comparison, his 2020 Italian GP winning teammate, Pierre Gasly, is eighth in the table. Confidence for the Frenchman is no doubt at its highest of the season following his superb third place from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Such on track performances clearly demonstrate Gasly’s race craft but also reveal the pace the AT02 has.
There is no doubting the talent Yuki Tsunoda has at his disposal, since making the move from Formula 2 and his Team Principal, Franz Tost, appreciates that for his Japanese rookie to be able to master his ‘unbelievable natural speed’ will take time.
“But this is a kind of a learning process. And I must say that during [Azerbaijan GP weekend] the team made already a big step forward in understanding the car and also from the technical feedback side. Therefore I'm quite positive that we will get him in the right way, because he has unbelievable natural speed.”
For his part, Yuki Tsunoda is also doing all he can and his team have already made steps to assist him.
Following the Monaco Grand Prix, which saw the rookie crash his car in a practice session having already been under the spotlight after his qualifying crash in Imola, Red Bull moved Tsunoda to Italy. By being closer to the team at their Faenza headquarters, Franz Tost was also able to schedule a new intensive training regimen for their promising rookie. On top of this, time was able to be devoted by Tsunoda, to understanding the capability of his and his skill - as well the limitations.
Franz Tost always demonstrates support for Yuki Tsunoda. Even when the Japanese racer caused a red flag in Q3 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Tost commented “Okay [Tsuoda had] the small incident but it was in qualifying three and can happen, happened also [to] more experienced drivers,” Such support and deflection is no doubt worth its weight in gold to a racer finding his way against the world’s very best. Tost also feels the best is yet to come from his youngster, as shown in his comments to the media in Baku: “I think that he will come up with some good results also in the second half of the season when he got a little bit more experience and especially on race tracks which he knows.”
Having drivers with ‘unbelievable speed’ is a nice problem to have and in his remarks first reported on Autosport.com, Franz Tost makes this point very clear.
“I like drivers who are pushing, I like drivers who are risking something,” he said. “But of course, early or later, you must get it under control. And this is what we have to teach Yuki…But to be honest, I like this way more than to try to make someone faster. Slowing down a fast driver is easier than to speed up a slow driver.”
The last racer Franz Tost probably encountered a similar issue with, would probably be Max Verstappen from his days when the team was branded as Toro Rosso.
The Dutchman is currently flying high at Red Bull Racing, sat top of the F1 Drivers’ Championship in the form of his life with a 4-point lead on seven-time F1 Drivers’ Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton. As such, Yuki Tsunoda surely has all the motivation needed to hone his natural gifts and unbelievable speed - then we’ll see exactly what he is capable of!