Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Monza, 2023

Becoming team leader has made me think for myself more – Tsunoda

Formula 1

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Yuki Tsunoda says he has enjoyed being the effective team leader at AlphaTauri as he has had three different team mates so far this year.

The 23-year-old is in his third year with the Faenza-based squad and will break a record when he continues at Red Bull’s secondary Formula 1 team for a fourth successive season in 2024.

In his first two campaigns he was team mate to grand prix winner Pierre Gasly. Following Gasly’s departure to Alpine, rookie Nyck de Vries took his place, but he lasted just 10 races before being dropped.

Daniel Ricciardo arrived in place of De Vries, but he was sidelined by injury in his third weekend with the team. Liam Lawson has substituted for him since then.

Having been partnered with two rookies and another driver who was not familiar with the AT04, Tsunoda has had to forge his own path when it comes to getting the best out of his car.

“I like that challenge this year so far because so far I’m not really looking at data from my team mates,” Tsunoda said.

“Sometimes, obviously, I’m looking for it. But I’m mainly trying to discover what I can do without any data, just a comparison with other teams and how the other drivers are driving. I think in the end that’s the kind of things I need as a driver in the future anyway, so for me it’s good training.

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“Until last year I got a bit of support from other drivers, I had a good reference from data and I could compare where I was losing. But now I have to think for myself where I’m losing, what I can improve. And I kind of already try to think myself, try to feel more where I’m lacking, where I’m losing, even when I’m driving.”

Tsunoda, who could have the chance to join AlphaTauri’s senior team Red Bull after the 2024 F1 season, says he has gained useful knowledge through having to work out for himself how to improve his car’s performance.

“It’s good learning for me,” said Tsunoda. “I feel even more responsible now which, I think, to be a better driver is for me a good opportunity.

“So far I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing and able to show the performance every time consistently. So I just have to keep doing like this and also support other drivers as much as possible.”

AlphaTauri lies last in the championship standings with six rounds remaining. Tsunoda has scored three of the team’s five points, the others having been picked up by Lawson.

It is the team’s least competitive season in its history, and Tsunoda admitted AlphaTauri would “be probably a more complete team” had the experienced Gasly not moved on. However Tsunoda said he was already trying to become less reliant on his team mate’s data and finding his own improvements before this year.

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“New drivers have to discover what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how they’re operating,” said Tsunoda. “I think I learned a lot from Pierre.

“Last year in the second half of the season I was already starting to be the driver the way I’m doing now. Trying to discover more for myself what I can do, not just from Pierre. I want to gain or make the difference compared to Pierre, on top of it with myself.

“From the second half [of 2022] I was already being by myself and just mainly focusing on chatting with the engineers rather than having reference and comparing with Pierre.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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11 comments on “Becoming team leader has made me think for myself more – Tsunoda”

  1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    30th September 2023, 20:08

    This is biggest load of tripe I’ve ever heard. The grid really needs 4 or 5 drivers to drop out and a few new names come in.

  2. Just like Marcus Ericsson was the leader of Sauber, being the one to remain with the team after beatings from Nasr and Wehrlein.

  3. I would rather have Yuki be the team leader than Daniel..after leaving RB family the first time as the “support” driver, was he really the leader at Renault or Mclaren? I don’t think so.. DR is just another mediocre driver.. all hype, nothing special..
    YT has a lot more potential than the washed up DR..

    1. And Tsunoda isn’t mediocre? We know what Ricciardo’s peak is. Tsunoda was never close to something like that, and he’s not a rookie. Potential is the word I use for newbies and very young drivers. Tsunoda is neither. OK driver, nothing more, nothing outstanding, he didn’t even have one memorable GP. Even Stoll had that (but that’s where comparison should better end, I don’t want to insult Tsunoda by going that far).

      1. Well he matched Gasly last year if you analyze his pace. Ricciardo was 24secs behind him in SPA. In Hungary both did the same Q1 time as well. Lawson is trailing him 0-4 and is just as slow as NDV. Let us see what Ricciardo can do against him on his comeback

        1. Lawson trailing Yuki on what metric? Because in all the 4 races since they’ve been teammates, Lawson finished higher and got 2pts/4 races vs. Yuki’s 0/4 (with only 3pts for the entire season). Even if you disregard the DNFs, it’s still 2-0 for Lawson.

    2. You have a pretty poor memory. Danny wiped the floor with Hulkenberg AND Ocon… and was closer to Max than ANY driver who has driven alongside him. McLaren was an outlier… I’m sure you know more than RBR though… you know, the guys who have seen the ACTUAL data.

      1. WAS is the crucial part there though @drone. We don’t know in how far he will be at that same level now since those 2 weekends at AT really don’t tell us much at all.

      2. Daniel Ricciardo was a match for a teenager, got outpaced in 2017 and was getting outpaced by increasing margins in 2018 before he ran away. His situation wouldn’t be any better than Perez had he stayed. He can’t handle not being the center of attention and was getting beaten handily by a kid who learnt racing in F1.

        At Renault he was good probably the best midfield driver alongside Perez in 2020 but you see midfield is midfield. Then he got handily beaten by Norris and the only reason RB have him back is for his smile and marketing potential.

        1. As I said. Pretty sure Red Bull saw something in the tyre test. My guess is that he likes a similar setup to Max and would be MUCH closer than the Mexican. Not only that but at AT he’s an experienced set of hands who can help drive their car development forward… Even Yuki openly admitted he learned from Dan immediately… Dan’s not finished yet, he’s just one of those drivers that needs a specific setup to be quick. Not Max levels of skill… but a much better number 2 than Sergio. He knows he probably can’t beat Max in a straight fight, but he’ll bring it home in 2nd regularly and win when fortune favours him.

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