Tsunoda’s F1 chance depends on F2 performance, not Honda links – Tost

2020 F1 season

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Yuki Tsunoda‘s chance of making his Formula 1 debut with AlphaTauri next season depends entirely on his Formula 2 performance, according to team principal Franz Tost.

The Honda-backed Red Bull Junior Team member, who will test for the team today at Imola, has been strongly linked to the second AlphaTauri seat, following confirmation Pierre Gasly will remain with them next year.

Tsunoda will drive a 2018-specification car in order to complete enough running to qualify for a free practice superlicence. That will allow AlphaTauri to run him on a Friday at a grand prix weekend before the season is over.

Tost said the aim of the test was to make sure Tsunoda completes the mileage required to secure the licence. “It’s his first outing in a Formula 1 car,” said Tost, “it’s in Imola, it’s not an easy track and I will instruct him on the best possible way to do [it].

Tsunoda has won twice in F2 this year
“We want to do a 300 kilometre run with him, just to get the permission from the FIA to do, eventually, first practice in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi.”

With four F2 races left this season Tsunoda lies third in the championship and is the highest-placed rookie. He is likely to reach the points threshold required to qualify for a superlicence at the end of the year. F1 practice outings would help add towards that total.

Tsunoda’s future “depends where he ends up in the Formula 2 driver’s championship”, said Tost. “If he is within the first four, he gets the superlicence. It he is fifth then maybe he needs to do first practice sessions because you get the point as well.”

Other contenders for the seat include the team’s former driver Alexander Albon, whose place at Red Bull is in doubt, and current driver Daniil Kvyat. “It’s better to have a queue than to have nothing,” Tost acknowledged.

Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
2021 F1 drivers and teams
Tost said the driver decision will be made by Red Bull, not AlphaTauri. “I think the decision will be made soon, we’ll get the decision from Red Bull and then we’ll see.”

But Tost said they “are not in a hurry” to make their choice. “If it’s before the end of the season, it’s fine. It depends, also, where Yuki Tsunoda ends in the championship because it is a very important factor.”

However he made it clear Honda’s support for Tsunoda was not a factor in the team considering him. “It’s just his performance,” Tost affirmed. “It has nothing to do with any sponsors or anything like this. This was never the case at either Toro Rosso or Scuderia AlphaTauri.”

“We must be convinced that the driver has the necessary ability and skills to drive successfully as a Formula 1 driver, because although we are the so-called sister team, our pride expects good drivers,” he added.

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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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7 comments on “Tsunoda’s F1 chance depends on F2 performance, not Honda links – Tost”

  1. Re Tost’s words: Top five, not four, although the amendments to the criteria mean that drivers (including those in F2) can ‘apply’ for a super license even if they don’t reach 40 SL points. Whether any F2 driver would receive one solely by reaching 30 is another matter, though. Time will tell. Nevertheless, the Honda-backing indeed isn’t worth pointing out as the Red Bull-backing is more relevant here, and that Honda won’t leave until after next season, so no impact on next year anyway.

    1. @jerejj Tsunoda joined Honda’s junior team a year before he was signed to Red Bull’s programme and still remains under contract with Honda, so I would say that it is still a relevant point to mention his backing from them.

  2. Event though Tost might not admit it, Tsonuda’s chances of joining the team went severely lower once Honda pulled out of the sport. I doubt they would bump Albon out of the squad for a driver who finished fourth in a relatively mediocre GP2 grid.

    1. @todfod Key thing is he’s a series rookie and is only racing in his second season in Europe, far far less than any other driver in the series. That should put things in perspective a bit more.

      1. @wsrgo and has perhaps had the best raw pace of any driver in F2 this year.

    2. @todfod – I don’t get people’s obsession with referring to the Honda-backing in the context of Tsunoda getting a drive at Alpha Tauri. I’ve pointed this out to some others not only on this site before, but the Red Bull-backing is more relevant here than the presence of Honda. Honda won’t even leave until after next season anyway, so no impact on what happens next year, nor even after that as he’s still got the backing from Red Bull, which is enough.
      @wsrgo @tflb – I agree with both of your points.

  3. I imagine the conversation below is being had one way or another
    RB- Honda, Tsunoda is going to drive for Alpha Tauri next year
    Honda- yes, and?
    RB- stick around for one more year until the engine freeze at the end of 2022 and we will put him in the Red Bull
    Honda- ok, and?
    RB- if you don’t, we won’t

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