Yuki Tsunoda exclusive interview with RaceFans

Tsunoda on learning from Ricciardo, fans’ ‘advice’ and dialling down radio rage


Posted on

| Written by and

You might not have heard of the ‘Lombard effect’ before – but you’ve almost definitely experienced it.

Have you ever been listening to audio with a pair of headphones on or earphones in, had someone say something to you, then shouted your response back at them? Of course you have. And that’s why you have something in common with Yuki Tsunoda.

The third-year AlphaTauri driver has become infamous for his… ‘passionate’ messages over team radio. Not just for the volume of his feedback to race engineer Mattia Spini, but a lot of the un-broadcastable language he uses.

Thankfully, Tsunoda is able to keep his voice at a respectable volume when out of the cockpit. But it’s amusing that when RaceFans joins the 23-year-old in the paddock for a sit down chat, he’s the one who brings up his struggles with the Lombard effect unprompted…

“Sometimes, my radio is quite shouty,” he admits. “It’s not because I’m angry. I’m not just really used to, at least not yet, talking on the radio while I’m driving.

“You can’t hear much what you’re saying. I feel like I have to speak loud to reach the radio, but the radio’s literally here. So I always forget this. You can’t even you speak like this, quietly, the engineers can hear it. So those things and like still very communication how I behave – especially in bad moments, bad times, I tend to always be really aggressive and excited.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Losail International Circuit, 2023
Tsunoda will race for a fourth season in 2024
Over his first three seasons in Formula 1, Tsunoda has had his fair share of ‘bad times’. Some of them he had little excuse for, such as crashing at the pit lane exit during his first visit to Montreal in 2022 or taking out team mate Pierre Gasly while in the points the very next round at Silverstone. But Japan’s sole representative on the F1 grid has also been the victim of circumstances, robbing him of results that could have changed the narrative around him within the paddock and in the consciousness of the sport’s fans.

Nonetheless, Tsunoda has achieved a rare honour within the Red Bull driver ecosystem and secured a fourth consecutive season at the world champions’ junior stable. For 2024, Tsunoda will once again bring his wild driving style and even wilder radio manner to the grid alongside veteran Daniel Ricciardo.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Speaking with Tsunoda, he’s under no illusion about the expectations upon him. But after his impressive rise through the ranks into the highest level of motorsport while barely out of his teens, Tsunoda seems almost grateful for the various trials and tribulations he’s faced over his formative years in Formula 1.

“I think I struggled, obviously,” he says when asked how he looks back over his opening seasons.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Imola, 2021
Tsunoda faced challenges in his rookie season
“For the performances [on track], it’s a different story, to be honest. But other than that, I think still those moments I struggled a lot have made me two steps a more better driver. I think anyway, that kind of struggle will happen in the future.”

His debut year in 2021 felt like a true rookie season in the traditional sense, where whenever a yellow flag flashed up on the timing screens, your best bet was that it would be either due to a certain Haas driver or Tsunoda himself. But rather than his struggles wrecking him mentally, Tsunoda says the damage to his ego likely helped him over the long run.

“It actually was good to experience that at the beginning of season, so from there I know how to like recover, how to build my confidence and everything,” he explains.

“It also let me struggle. I didn’t struggle that much in my whole career. I’d driven like 16 years before then and I didn’t have anything like that. So it probably was a good thing to break my confidence and to rebuild from the base, to build a completely new, strong confidence in myself as a driver.”

Dealing with failure and learning from it is hard enough to do in the intense world of Formula 1, but even more so when a member of the Red Bull machine. Tsunoda frankly admits that it was difficult for him over those early seasons – especially when every mistake he made led to criticism seemingly from everywhere.

“It’s not always easy, it takes a lot of races,” he says. “Obviously people not saying good things to me, social media was a new thing – those things. But in this kind of sports environment, any or in fact most sports, will naturally come with that. So I think it was good. I mean, better than having that kind of things in the future. So I’m happy with it.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

But while it’s natural to assume that an emotionally expressive young sportsperson would be tempted to keep themselves away from the mental black hole that is modern day social media, it’s surprising to learn that he looks “quite a lot” at what people have to say about him online.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Suzuka, 2023
His home race awarded him two points for ninth
“Yeah, sometimes – in Japanese,” he clarifies. “I feel sometimes funny because I don’t like how Japanese people say things in social media. I like the European people more, like how they say their comments.

“Japanese people, they try to explain or like give extra advice to me – it’s like, ‘guys…’. It makes me laugh sometimes. I always see something that makes me frustrated. At the same time, I don’t hear many voices from Japan – you can see how people react to me, but not in Japan. So it’s good to know.

“But at the same time I don’t really listen to the social media people. Sometimes – like it depends on the situation – but it doesn’t make sense because either way, if I perform well, they suddenly change through 180 degrees. And if I have a bad moment, they again turn 180 degrees and it goes in the other direction. It’s a lot of people, but anyway it doesn’t make much difference.”

One person whose views he does care about is his team mate for the rest of the 2023 season and next year, Ricciardo. Ten years his senior and a multiple grand prix winner for two different teams, Ricciardo is largely expected to be the leading light for AlphaTauri.

For Tsunoda, it will be a completely different dynamic from the start of this year with ousted rookie Nyck de Vries and the last five rounds alongside Red Bull junior, and Tsunoda’s former neighbour, Liam Lawson. But Tsunoda insists his own stature within the team has grown since he was racing alongside the more experienced Pierre Gasly over his first two years.

“It is different,” Tsunoda says of his two weekends of racing with Ricciardo so far.

“Probably when I was with Pierre also there, how I was in the team, how I got treated from the team is a little bit different than now. I was a complete rookie, a lot of things to learn. With Pierre I knew that I kind of had to improve a lot in a lot of places. He was kind of a good example for a rookie. For me it was good because his attitude, how he communicated with the team, gave me an idea of how to be in Formula 1, so that’s good.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“With Daniel, I’ve definitely learned little different things. Especially how he behaves with the team. Even in the moments that don’t go well, how he treats the team, what he says on the radio, those things gives them more confidence. More happiness – ‘happiness’ is a little different, but it changes the atmosphere.”

Tsunoda will race alongside Ricciardo in 2024
Heading into next season, Tsunoda says he is determined to learn as much as possible from Ricciardo to guide his own growth as a driver. Not just from studying the Western Australian’s famously laid-back nature, but making sure he can pick up on the areas where Ricciardo isn’t as strong as him too.

“He’s always calm on the radio, which is probably opposite of me!,” he laughs. “Those things I have learned a lot.

“That kind of confidence he has, that natural confidence, I can tell is quite big. The atmosphere, comparing Pierre and Daniel, is quite similar. Because both are people who like to enjoy themselves. But I will say still they have differences between them. Obviously there’s the goodness of Daniel. I would say I learn a lot of things from him. His goodness, obviously from the outside, and his ‘badness’ as well. But also I’m learning different things from Daniel from that goodness of him.”

Listening to Tsunoda speak about his aims as a driver, it’s hard not to be struck not just by how introspective and self-aware he is, but how eager he seems to be to address those mental and even social factors that can be just as critical to success as raw talent behind the wheel. Ask many drivers about what they want to improve in themselves and you’ll hear a grab-bag of similar responses about speed, consistency or even their adaptability behind the wheel. But Tsunoda seems determined to become a better driver through self-discipline – and that starts with dialling down the decibels over the airwaves.

“I want to improve on the radio,” he states, flatly. “How I behave with the team in general will be key and that’s what I want to focus on, rather than scoring points whatever.

“Step-by-step, I want to improve on my limitations. That’s what I’m focussed on, nothing other than that.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Talking to those in the know

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. That means being in the paddock in person. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2023 F1 season

Browse all 2023 F1 season articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

13 comments on “Tsunoda on learning from Ricciardo, fans’ ‘advice’ and dialling down radio rage”

  1. I wonder if non-native speakers of English in a generally English-speaking sport are sometimes judged to native-speaker standard?

    I used to teach engineering in English to a lot of Eastern European young students (I am in Denmark, and is thus myself far from being a native speaker of English, which I am certain this text will prove!).

    One thing that struck me was that many of them conversed in English in a manner that was .. .., aheee, let’s call it : “emphatically colourful”. This was very noticable when compared to the handful of students we had who had a UK or American bagground, who were much more polite and restrained in their language.

    I suspect that this may, at least partially, be because movies and other forms of popular culture had been a major source of language learning for them, compared to someone who grew up with English as a daily language.

    Perhaps Tsunoda may need a bit of leeways for something like this?

    1. It doesn’t take living there to know this, but as someone who did live in Japan for a while, the differences in communication, body language, etiquette, etc. are just utterly enormous. So, yeah, I’d give him a little bit of slack.

      The thing I like most about Yuki is that he has a very different perspective than most of the drivers and is the only one who doesn’t seem to give coached answers. It also feels to him like F1 isn’t the end of the world, which is refreshing in some ways (and I’m sure might drive others crazy).

  2. I wonder if non-native speakers of English in a generally English-speaking sport are sometimes judged to native-speaker standard?

    Almost certainly. Then again, I suspect if you substituted “English” with another language and “sport” with “activity” the answer is probably the same. People in general tend to judge by their own measure, which always right, obviously… :)

    Tsunoda and Zhou have my particular admiration in mastering English nuances so well. Zhou has spent some years prior to F1 entry based in Yorkshire IIRC.

    I am in Denmark, and is thus myself far from being a native speaker of English, which I am certain this text will prove!)

    Just barely. Native speakers are sufficiently bad that the non-native speakers tend to stand out more by not being so bad.

    NB. “Background” rather than “bagground”
    “I am from Denmark, and I am thus…” rather than”I am in Denmark, and is thus myself ”

    My Danish is non-existent, and other languages are barely any better.

  3. Firstly, the idea of learning from an experienced driver like Daniel Ricciardo is crucial in the development of any young talent in Formula 1, as the knowledge and experience of more experienced drivers can be invaluable.

    Additionally, mentioning fan ‘advice’ adds an interesting element, as it demonstrates how fan opinions can influence a driver’s mindset or the decisions he makes. Fans are a fundamental part of any sport, and their support and criticism can have a significant impact.

  4. An interesting comparison between Japanese & Europeans regarding how they post on social media sites & the reference about giving extra advice is something I’d never realized about the former group.

    1. I’m surprised people are still allowed to make such generalising comments after the Dr Marko uproar.

  5. This is dialed down?

    I like Yuki, but I can’t see RBR ever giving him a chance. He’s been too uninspiring, seems too easily upset and has a work ethic and approach that is largely down to youth. When young, many of us are too oblivious to realize how big an opportunity we are staring at and how long its effects could last. I know I did. Yes, it’s hard to see how someone could be oblivious to what an F1 opportunity means, but we’ve seen many young drivers act just like that.

    1. BTW, I see how easily someone could be wayyyy to loud on an F1 radio. It’s less the volume and more the tone and content. The volume has just made it seem exponentially worse.

      1. Agreed. He has often sounded like a petulant child tossing toys out of his pram. Hopefully he is learning things about team behavior and how to inspire the troops, rather than continuing with what sound like temper tantrums.

  6. The reference to Mazespin made me chuckle cause I was just rewatching some of 2021. Beyond the crashes and ridiculous contacts, what stood out most to me about him is how time and again he ignored blue flags and blocked Max, Lewis, etc. It was ridiculous. It seems like it was totally intentional. Or maybe not. He likely had zero spare capacity to check his mirrors or notice the blue lights, but you have to figure his engineer was telling him.

  7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    14th October 2023, 19:59

    Is there a power struggle at Red Bull?

    1. @freelittlebirds

      Well, Obergruppenführer Marko was recently seen putting Horner in a headlock.

Comments are closed.