Sir Lewis Hamilton had an eventful Turkish Grand Prix having started the race in 11th - after his penalty for changing engine parts. Hamilton had been fastest in qualifying which showed he clearly had the pace to carve his way through the field. First though he would have to overtake a host of cars in the Red Bull family. As such, Yuki Tsunoda has proudly declared that he attempted to fend off Lewis Hamilton “as much as possible” in the hope of helping F1 Drivers’ title leader Max Verstappen.
Last weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix saw Red Bull Racing run a Honda tribute livery. The position Honda find themselves in with Max Verstappen seeming to be taking Lewis Hamilton all the way on the track is a big moment in their history. Even more so seeing how Honda leave F1 at the end of 2021.
Therefore, it is a hardly a surprise to hear that their Honda-backed drivers would do what they can to assist a Max Verstappen title charge.
Yuki Tsunoda has had a mixed season of results having started the season so strongly. However, having been confirmed to continue to partner Pierre Gasly in 2022, the Japanese rookie has looked more relaxed. Not only this, during the past weekend he had a driver coach assisting him in the form of former Red Bull Racing driver Alex Albon. All of this resulted in a very impressive P9 starting position on Sunday at Istanbul Park.
Saturday’s qualifying was only the third time this season that Yuki Tsunoda had found his way through to Q3. Then, when Sunday came, the Japanese racer – who would have hoped to be racing at Suzuka had the original calendar been fulfilled – was able to keep seven-time F1 Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton behind him for a strong handful of laps.
Previously, Lando Norris had claimed Lewis Hamilton would overtake him after two laps. A surprising claim from a man starting the race in P7. As it turned out, Lewis Hamilton was only able to find his way pass Yuki Tsunoda on lap 8.
After several unsuccessful attempts at a pass on previous laps, Hamilton finally found a way beyond the Honda-backed youngster around the outside of Turn 3. This was the best it got for Tsunoda as he was unable to recover back into the points after a spin on lap 22. However, the Japanese rookie had more than played his part as he proudly told the media after Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.
Yuki Tsunoda admitted he had “used too much tyre early on” in his captivating on track battle with Lewis Hamilton. But for Tsunoda, the ends justified the means.
“I want Max to win in the last year of Honda, and for Red Bull as well,” Tsunoda said in his frankly speaking manner. “So I tried to hold Lewis up as much as possible, for I don't know how many laps. I was trying to save more of my tyre.
Lewis Hamilton was surely less than impressed by how long it took to get beyond Tsunoda, but AlphaTauri’s racer still expected more from himself:
“I tried to hold him behind for 20 laps. Eight laps is not enough.” Tsunoda stated after the race to the wider media.
A lot of other variables resulted in Lewis Hamilton finishing Sunday’s race in P5 for Mercedes. Nevertheless, Yuki Tsunoda was no doubt delighted to see this finishing position (coupled with Max Verstappen’s P2) ensure that the Dutchman regained the championship lead albeit by a slender six points with six races to go.
For Yuki Tsunoda, his race saw him cross the line in 14th having been unable to recover from a bizarre spin on lap 22.
The Japanese rookie explained that the dirty spray gave him the impression that one of his on-track rivals was closing in from behind. In reality, there was no one there but by pushing harder for fear of being overtaken, the spin was the consequence.
“I couldn't see anything because of dirt and dust,” Tsunoda said, as quoted by autosport.com.
“I just couldn't see, I thought there was a car right behind me so I just have to push, and I spun. The spin ruined my whole race so it's a shame. We were able to score points today so yeah, just a shame…It was an opportunity to get us big points compared to other teams,” Tsunoda said.
Yuki Tsunoda and AlphaTauri would have loved a haul of points from Turkey having qualified strongly. His teammate Pierre Gasly came home in P6 which brought 8 points to AlphaTauri as they endeavour to catch up to Alpine in the battle for fifth place in the F1 Constructors’ Championship.
However, with six races remaining, there is still time for AlphaTauri to haul back the 12-point deficit over Alpine. Yet, there will rarely be such a good chance to hold up Lewis Hamilton on track. As such, Yuki Tsunoda is more than satisfied by the part he played.
It remains to be seen how much harm Yuki Tsunoda’s performance may have done to Lewis Hamilton’s title charge. Nevertheless, for a man with aspiration to join Red Bull Racing one day as a result of promotion from the sister team AlphaTauri, it can be predicted, that Sunday’s performance did Yuki Tsunoda’s future prospects no harm whatsoever.