Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Imola, 2020

Tsunoda replaces Kvyat in AlphaTauri line-up for 2021

2021 F1 season

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AlphaTauri has confirmed Yuki Tsunoda will replace Daniil Kvyat in their line-up for the 2021 F1 season.

Tsunoda, 20, was the top-scoring rookie in this year’s Formula 2 championship. He finished the season third overall, 15 points behind champion Mick Schumacher, who will also graduate to F1 with next year with Haas.

“Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team,” said team principal Franz Tost. “Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding.”

Tsunoda tested one of the team’s two-year-old cars at Imola in October. In yesterday’s young drivers test at Yas Marina he had his first chance to sample the car Kvyat and Pierre Gasly raced this year.

“During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback,” recalled Tost. “In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps.

“At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1.”

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Tsunoda won Japan’s Formula 4 championship in 2018 and has spent the last two seasons racing in European-based series. He has enjoyed the backing of Red Bull and its engine supplier Honda on his way to F1.

“I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe,” he said. “I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year.

“I realise that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them too.”

AlphaTauri’s latest promotion from the Red Bull Junior Team means Kvyat will be left without a seat for next year. He is the team’s longest-serving driver in its guises as Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri, having made his F1 debut with them in 2014.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Tsunoda replaces Kvyat in AlphaTauri line-up for 2021”

  1. I believe Honda saw this coming and jumped ship early. They don’t want to get caught up in that “nationality” driver trap and thus being forced to remain as a supplier of engines and funding. I guess the compromise now will be to hand over their engine IP in some form to Redbull.

    1. Never bothered them before. All engine manufacturers have openly done it before.

    2. I really don’t think that had much, if anything at all, to do with it.

    3. What an odd logic. They fund the lad for years, but now that he’s in AlphaTauri they need to get out of F1 because god forbid they’re “trapped.”

      What?

    4. That is not it. It is called desperate attempt to forcefully keep Honda in f1 even if Honda has already announced their departure.
      Tsunoda impressed but so did many others, Daruvala the teammate was around Tsunoda for most of the time.
      Regardless, looks like a typical RB signing, they saw some momentum and they snapped him up.

      1. Sounds like you watched a very different 2020 F2 season to what I saw, @peartree. Daruvala was great in F3 in 2019 but only just started finding his feet in F2 at the very end of this year’s season. Tsunoda has been consistently fast and exciting all year.

  2. It’s weird to think that Kvyat has been in F1 since 2014. I think he’s quick, but he’s had opportunities a plenty (the Ferrari sojourn aside) and it’s never really come to much. I’ve enjoyed Tsunoda this year in F2 (actually everyone aside Mazepin in the top half) and the Alpha Tauri has the potential on it’s day. First Japanese F1 driver I think since Kobayashi was scared to drive that Caterham, same year Daniil made his debut.

  3. This announcement could’ve been made immediately after Bahrain II or on the day he became eligible for a super license (Saturday of that weekend), but oh well, better later than never.

    1. On the other hand it kinda makes sense to announce it right after he had the test, doing his first laps in the car and getting to know his new work environment in the team @jerejj.

      Some delays don’t make sense, but this really wasn’t so much a delay as more a pretty decent procedure. During the season he showed his potential. In the last couple of races he defenitely proved that, and also made sure he had the super licence. The team finished its season with the drivers they had, they had Tsunoda test the car for a whole day and now announce that everything is good and they will be together.

      1. @bascb Indeed. Fair enough considering the things you mentioned.

      2. Jose Lopes da Silva
        16th December 2020, 9:50

        +1.
        Six full seasons and 112 GP seems more than enough to rate Kvyat. He is a good F1 driver, like most of the grid are good F1 drivers. In a cruel sport, he would not have had a second chance. But he had it, since the Red Bull system works on a merit basis. In a merit-based sport, being a good driver is not enough to keep you going around year after year. Specially as there are only 17 seats in current Formula 1. It’s a good time to go.
        It’s a pity that some people still believe that he was better than Ricciardo in 2015, but that’s how it goes. Ricciardo has since coped with Verstappen, ended Hulk’s career, and beat Ocon. He doesn’t need that wishful thinking.

        1. Ricciardo ended Hülkenberg’s career

          That’s a fun way to look at it. I would say being German is what ended his career at Renault

          1. Jose Lopes da Silva
            16th December 2020, 17:34

            “I would say being German is what ended his career at Renault.”
            That’s a fun way to look at it.

          2. @paeschli according to Renault, as Hulkenberg’s contract was due to expire at the end of 2019, they did make an offer to extend Hulkenberg’s contract during negotiations with him in early 2019.

            Prost has stated that Renault offered Nico what is sometimes termed a “1+1” deal – that means the team offered him a one year deal for 2020, with the option to then extend that contract for another year into 2021. According to him, Hulkenberg then rejected that offer and requested that they converted it into a fixed two year deal instead.

            To me, saying it was purely driven by the respective nationalities of Ocon and Hulkenberg is probably oversimplistic. If you look back at the time, Ocon was credited with some fairly respectable performances against Perez whilst at Force India and, given Hulkenberg also drove against Perez, they might have looked at Perez as something of a common link between the two.

            Whilst Hulkenberg did outscore Perez in 2014, in 2015 and 2016 the figures shifted to being more in Perez’s favour. When it comes to Ocon’s relative performance against Perez in 2017 and 2018, Ocon did slightly better in terms of points scored relative to Perez than Hulkenberg did in 2015 and 2016.

            As for qualifying performances, whilst Hulkenberg did tend to out-qualify Perez more often than not, that gap had been progressively dropping during their time together. Although, in 2017, Perez did beat Ocon in terms of qualifying position, in 2018 that trend reversed and Ocon was out-qualifying Perez more often (and by a fairly significant margin too).

            Now, if you are in the position of Renault, if Ocon is potentially on the market, then you might look at him and think that Ocon is a driver whom, if you use Perez as a relative benchmark, looks at least as quick as Hulkenberg and, given Ocon is rather less experienced, there is the potential for further improvements in performance as he gains advantage, whilst being 50% cheaper than Hulkenberg is. That adds up to a number of items that would have looked like positives for picking Ocon over Hulkenberg in 2019 that go beyond a simplistic attitude of “it was his nationality”.

        2. Only 17 seats in current f1, how?

      3. @bascb I can see the logic in the delay as well, AT had nothing to gain by going faster. They are at the top as can ultimately dictate and others have to wait and follow.

        However I hope that it didn’t have an impact on Kvyat’s ability to secure a drive next year. He probably wouldn’t have been able to sign anything until this was confirmed and this could have locked him out of other opportunities. Teams may not have offered drives or negotiated if he was not absolutely available.

        1. From what Kvyat mentioned during the last race weekend, he was already informed though @chimaera2003 – I do think there was little time for him to sign anything though, since he couldn’t really be sure, and maybe his RB contract even prevented him from talking to others until they allowed him to as well.

          I do hope he finds a solid spot. I think he can do a good job winning races elsewhere, be it WEC, IMSA, be it touring cars, or maybe even Indycar. Pretty crazy to think a decent racer like he is booted out of the sport for the SECOND time already at age 26! But Kvyat had his chance and making room for Tsunoda certainly is a lot less of a bad feeling than having to make room for the other Russian coming in at Haas.

  4. Nice, he deserves it!

  5. Hmm. I was wondering why the delay in confirming Yuki. I thought it was Red Bull keeping its options open and put Albon back in order to accommodate Checo (if they want to).

    But now that this is confirmed, Albon is either out or Red Bull

    1. I mean, he didn’t even have his super license until two weeks ago, so there’s your delay.

      1. @aiii But he could’ve been announced immediately after becoming eligible on the Saturday of the second Bahrain weekend, but I guess they wanted to coincide it with the post-Abu Dhabi GP test anyway.

  6. Looking forward to see how he measures up against Gasly next season.

    1. He will have a tough benchmark for sure.

    2. Definitely looking forward to it. I expect Gasly will handily win over the season and I expect it will take Tsunoda half a season to get properly up to his own speed. But I have high hopes for him. He is absolutely in F1 on merit and I was hugely impressed with his driving last season. I think he has more to him than Kobayashi & Sato did. They were almost known for their wildness behind the wheel as much as anything (and I loved them both). Yuki is a very different kind of driver. Calculated and intelligent.

  7. Bit of a shame for Kvyat that this wasn’t announced just a few days prior, I mean he could have had a proper send off from F1 and instead it’s a damp squib. I can only presume this has more to do with Red Bull delaying any decision to put Albon in that seat rather than something AT would do knowing how they usually go about their business. Albon will likely be reserve driver for RB then I guess if and when Perez is signed.

    1. I would assume AT gave him several weeks notice this was gonna happen. Waiting until the middle of December before telling your driver he’s out if the team next year completely screws Kvyat of any chances of finding a seat elsewhere in 2021.

      1. I think they told him shortly before the race weekend, because reading up on this Kvyat mentioned that they wanted Tsunoda to replace him in the post race interviews. With that in mind, I’m not sure why AT couldn’t have announced it before the race to the press and at least have given him a send off. I’ve listened to Kvyat team radio at the end of the race, and there is no mention of a thanks from the team, no send off, nothing. It’s kind of sad and pretty disrespectful in my opinion given his strong end to the season and the points he’s earnt the team.

        1. Yes, I agree they should have handled this better. I have a feeling Alex Albon will receive worse treatment.

    2. I can understand the notion of not wanting to make a big deal of Kvyat’s departure, but also it should have been obvious to Daniil that he was just keeping the seat warm until the end of the season. If AT had wanted him they’d have had him sign a contract long before now.

    3. They should really sign Kvyat for RBR next year. He never had an opportunity to race against Verstappen, unlike Gasly and Albon.

      1. True, I think kvyat did better at red bull than any recent drivers apart from ric and vers.

  8. First F1 driver to be born in the 2000s, if I’m not mistaken.

    As an aside, Verstappen’s youngest race winner record is probably safe for a good while now, unless Theo Pourchaire is an F2 title challenger in 2021, gets the Sauber seat that Raikkonen has for 2022, and Alfa Romeo play a blinder in the new era and make a car capable of winning races.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      16th December 2020, 9:41

      Let’s keep an eye on Juju Noda.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        16th December 2020, 21:10

        Noda is definitely a rising star. Not sure why she didn’t make the girls on track final but the team has a drive for her for 2021. What that is is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile IDK what anyone sez, Yuki Tsunoda is fast as F! He deserves that seat. I’ll give him half the season before he outqualifies Gasly.

    2. Since you have to be 18 now to even be allowed to get into F1, I assume Max’s record is pretty much set for a while unless someone debuts in a top race winning team ala Hamilton, but in most cases since all the top teams have b-teams now, that is becoming increasingly unlikely.

      Either way, if someone is to win a race in their debut year to break that record, it’s probably going to have to be a fluke win due to shenanigans ala Monza for Gasly. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

    3. Argh you made me feel so old with that comment! @wsrgo

  9. RedBull must be praying for Tsunoda to succeed. If that 2021 Honda engine is anywhere good as Marko suggested, it may trap Honda into staying.
    Can you imagine what would happen if Tsunoda pulls a Gasly-like (Monza) lucky strategy next year?
    Not that I believe there’s any national pride in today’s worldwide corporations, but still…

    1. Look at the orange armada, forget national pride, marketing on national pride. Max bringing Heineken saved f1.

      1. Yes and you’ll be gone when he is. Its good to have you around but lets not kid ourselves, you are Max fans, not F1 fans

    2. Honda is leaving, that’s an executive decisions that’s been long made. There’s no reversing that.

      The only way Yuki’s seat is linked to that engine if it is part of the deal to “sweeten” the potential purchase of the IP and the Milton Keynes factory and personnel. But I assume that deal has already been negotiated and is only contingent on whatever the FIA rules are for engine development from 2022 onwards.

      1. I hope there is some deviation from Honda’s current policy because it would be a shame to do all that hard work, to make a successful F1 engine, and to then bin all that effort. For example Honda might consider sub-contracting the engine development and manufacturing to Red Bull or a consortium of RB, Honda, and someone else. I believe most of the carbon based fuels burnt as part of a Grand prix come from non-race car sources.

  10. Tsunoda is a promising talent and I wish him well. If he manages to keep up with Gasly, he will sit in the Red Bull sooner or later. And maybe one day he might score the first GP win for Japan. It’s crazy how little success Japanese had in F1, considering their rich and passionate car and racing culture.

  11. What a rapid progression.

  12. I think Franz has made a very valid point here. There could be discrepancy between lap times in a simulator and that in a real race car. If the consistency is there, it would translate into good race pace which is crucial for a mid field team like Alpha Tauri in 2021 over the entire season. He was also impressive in Abu Dhabi test.

  13. Good to see a Japanese driver back in F1, and there is a realistic route to a top team if he can perform.

    I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for him, having been solid but un-eye-catching in F3, but he’s looking like a properly exciting talent now. As the top rookie among a field of what were very exciting rookies, and only 15 points behind the more experienced champion, he has to be the most promising talent arriving next year. Really looking forward to seeing how he gets on.

    1. I’m still amazed that japanese driver has never won a grand prix. Japan is one of those countries that belong in F1 like Brazil or Italy.

  14. I can’t imagine that Red Bull is going to take over from Honda. Even for Red Bull the cost must be outrageous to make an engine and keep on developing it. Back to Renault it is for 2022 in my opinion.

    1. Maybe less outrageous than buying from Honda. i don’t know . it’s not like Honda gives these away for free either.

      obviously Honda will have to release some of their engineers to Red Bull

  15. one for the stats experts… will Tsunoda be the smallest driver in F1 history? last week I saw a pic of Tsunoda next to Gasly and Gasly looked like a giant.

    1. nevermind… I just found it was Andrea Montermini (157 cm). by the way, Yuki is 160 cm tall.

      1. So what about RBR second seat?

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