Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Yas Marina, 2023

Tsunoda didn’t realise he was leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1

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Yuki Tsunoda spent five laps leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but wasn’t aware he was heading the field at the time.

The AlphaTauri driver rose to the head of the field as he was the last of the drivers who started on the medium tyre compound to pit. He hit the front of the field for the first time in his Formula 1 career on lap 18 and stayed there until he pitted on lap 23.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I was leading the pack, so I was quite surprised about it,” Tsunoda admitted afterwards.

Leading a race would have been beyond AlphaTauri’s wildest dreams in Bahrain, he said. “Looking back, the [start] of the season, we never thought about it, where we’re leading the pack.

“So it’s a massive, massive improvement and without the team efforts we couldn’t achieve this much. The amount they pushed this year, almost every race we had upgrades and it was crazy and they deserved it.”

Today’s race was the last for AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost, who has run Red Bull’s junior F1 team since it was set up in 2006. Although Tsunoda went on to finish eight, the team fell short of overhauling Williams for seventh place in the championship.

“I [wasn’t] able to give the biggest gift to Franz, but I gave it all,” said Tsunoda. “So my performance was in appreciation to him.”

He needed to finish two places higher than he did in order to move them up in the championship. He doubted that would have been possible even with a different strategy.

He said his long opening stint was intentional: “It was the plan, but we knew that it was going to be difficult.

“We were listening to what the tyres say and they held on quite well in the first stint. That helped, I think that was a key moment. I think in the end, what we [did] on the strategy itself was okay.

“Even [if] I did the same exact same strategy as the top teams, I don’t know if we’re able to finish P6 anyway. So I think we don’t have regrets.”

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2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
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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10 comments on “Tsunoda didn’t realise he was leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix”

  1. Possibly my favourite moment from this race was getting to turn around to the friend I was watching the race with, and say “Lance Stroll, in P2, is closing in on race leader Yuki Tsunoda”

    Tbf, it was probably the biggest highlight of the first 50 laps…

    1. Aha, yes, I was thinking the same when I saw that: very unusual leading pair!

  2. Really? Surely Mattia Spini informed him at the time as race engineers always keep their drivers up-to-date about their current position.

    1. No it seems to be personal preference. Some drivers like to be kept up to date on their positions and laps to go and the like, others just like being fed feedback and settings changes. Tsunoda’s interactions with his engineers are generally settings changes, when to push, and the occasional curse when he gets frustrated.

      1. Even so it seems a bit of a shame they didn’t get on the radio for a quick ‘BTW you’re leading a GP’…

        1. Absolutely, would’ve been nice.

        2. Maybe tost should’ve got on the radio even, adding an “I’m proud of you” in the end of the team radio!

  3. I’m pretty sure during the last race or the one prior, TSU told his engineer to be quiet, in a more colorful tone. They were just following his wishes today.

  4. We were listening to what the tyres say and they held on

    love this

    1. Yuki Tsunoda, tyre whisperer. :)

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