Honda exit won’t affect Tsunoda’s F1 debut chances

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Yuki Tsunoda‘s chances of gaining a promotion to Formula 1 will not be affected by Honda’s decision to leave the sport, according to senior figures at the Japanese manufacturer and Red Bull.

The 20-year-old, who lies second in the Formula 2 championship, is due to test for AlphaTauri at the end of the year. As well as being a member of Red Bull’s Junior Team he is also backed by Honda.

But Honda’s announcement last week that they will withdraw from F1 after 2021 has cast doubt on Tsunoda’s future in the sport.

However speaking in yesterday’s FIA press conference at the Eifel Grand Prix, Honda F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto said that Tsunoda’s F1 hopes were not connected to Honda supplying Red Bull with power units and that Honda would continue to support his promotion hopes where they could.

“Personally, I don’t think that our leaving has any impact there,” said Yamamoto. “Red Bull don’t just let anyone drive their cars. I think they’ll be strictly evaluating him strictly as a junior driver and also, it depends on his Formula 2 results as well but we’d like to back him up where we can.”

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost said that the team’s existing driver line-up and Tsunoda would be evaluated on on-track performance alone, after the young driver test.

“Alpha Tauri has two fast drivers currently, in Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat and we will do the young driver test with Yuki Tsunoda.”

“This has nothing to do with the decision from Honda that they will not continue after ’21. The philosophy at Red Bull is always the performance.”

Tost praised Tsunoda’s rookie F2 season, saying he would be even better placed in the standings but for a radio error that cost him a feature race win at the Red Bull Ring earlier this season, as he was unable to be instructed to pit or see the pit boards for several laps in extremely wet conditions.

“He has won two races this year in Spa and Silverstone,” said Tost. “And in Austria he was leading until a few laps to go, then because of radio problems he couldn’t win this race.

“He is doing a really good job and this is decisive, the performance of the driver. This was always the philosophy and this will always stay like it is. Then we will see what Red Bull decides regarding the drivers for 2021.”

If Tsunoda sustains his position inside the championship top three he will score 40 FIA superlicence points, making him automatically eligible to race in Formula 1 next year.

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2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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9 comments on “Honda exit won’t affect Tsunoda’s F1 debut chances”

  1. Inside the top five, although the FIA has just amended the super license approach due to the impact of COVID-19, so he now only needs two more SL-points to become eligible for a super license instead of twelve, hence, even more likely to hit the target (that has been lowered from 40 to 30) than before. The change also increases chances for Juri Vips.

    1. @jerejj I still think you need 40 for an automatic superlicense so the article is correct. The amendment i think allows anyone with 30 points to make an application for one but the FIA can use discretion to give one out.

      However if they don’t allow someone of Tsunoda’s quality to receive discretion then it would make the amendment pointless in any case.

  2. Well, he must be good if he is only second to Schumacher, who some regard as the second coming of Schumacher.

    1. @jureo He’s Third, 44 points behind Schumacher, 22 behind Ilott, only 7 points ahead of Mazepin in 6th, and 38 ahead of Ghiotto in 9th. However, he’s also a rookie, and it’s very close between him and two other rookies Lundgaard and Shwartzman in 4th and 5th, 7 points separating the three.

  3. He is third, not second and in close battle with four other drivers.

    It makes perfect sense to install him next year at Alpha Tauri, if he test well. They need some new blood instead of Kvyat and now Vips has been stalled it gives them a year of seeing Tsunodas progress against Gasly or Albon who will fill the other seat. After that they can look at Vips who should be able to get the needed points for a 2022 seat.

    1. @JA Vips’ chances for a super license suddenly increased thanks to FIA’s amendments to the criteria of obtaining a super license.

  4. Red Bull thinks financially. Japanese are crazy when it comes to their Japanese drivers. There is a lot of money to be earned to put an even moderately competitive Japanese driver in one of their cars. Presumably he wouldn’t be much worse than Kvyat. So the math is done very easily. He will take over the seat just for the $$$.
    Same reason why we got to put up with Albon. It’s all about the money. Red Bull wants the best of the best. But when they can’t get any, they go for what’s best financially. I sthink this is smart.

    1. Yeah, quite smart.

      Maybe instead, they should go with a better driver and be even smarter.

  5. He seems to have fire inside and races hard (yet I think in a positive meaning of hard) hopefully it will work out for him in the future. RB just can’t let such a talent go with still quite empty academy ranks, even without Honda, he seems to be a considerable F1 prospect. To be on the safe side, I would support Tsunoda quite a bit, till the effect of the necessary switch of engine supplier gets to a conclusion (they even can loose Verstappen, that could make them really void, probably even a defunct team). So support him at least for 1 years, with a minimum of a well funded F2 drive, but I would not mind giveing him an Alpha Tauri drive as well. Or as Honda stays at Indy, he could have a well funded ride next year at Indy, backed by both Honda and RB. That would give him more experience (or even a great career at the USA, if he will not come back to F1) than staying in any kind of development series. He’s talented, and Indy would give him more challenge than F2, and I would expect him finishing at least in the midfield in a decent rookie season of him, because that was achievend even by Ferrucci, but I think Tusnoda is more professional and a better driver tham him.

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