Yuki Tsunoda, Lance Stroll, Suzuka, 2024

How Tsunoda seized on Stroll’s “frickin’ horrible race” to snatch home point

Formula 1

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Opportunities for Formula 1’s lower five teams to score championship points have proved few and far between this year.

With the top half of the field holding the performance advantage, the 10 drivers of the fastest five cars should occupy the top ten positions in the race, provided they have no mishaps.

Last weekend in Suzuka the only one of the 10 to miss out Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll. Instead, Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda snatched the last points-paying position to delight his home fans, his family in attendance and his RB team.

Why did Stroll miss what should have been his minimum target for the weekend? The answer lies in the midfield melee. While Stroll got stuck in a DRS train, Tsunoda’s RB mechanics helped him to break free of it – which transformed his race.

Race start and red flag

Start, Suzuka, 2024
Stroll gained on the medium-shod Tsunoda at the original start of the race

After reaching Q3, Tsunoda started 10th with team mate Daniel Ricciardo behind him, both on the medium compound tyres. But behind the RBs was a pack of rivals all on soft tyres, including Stroll in 16th.

The RBs were swamped by those on softer rubber, with Tsunoda dropping three places. Stroll was looking up the inside of the other RB into turn three when Ricciardo drifted into Alexander Albon’s Williams to his outside, sending both into the tyre wall and out of the race, causing enough of a mess that the race was red-flagged.

Lap: 1/53 TSU: 2’47.566
SpiniRed flag. Red flag. Follow the reference. Charge ‘on’.
TsunodaAfter seeing the crash on a video screen
Is he okay?
SpiniI’ll let you know when I know. Yeah, he’s out… yep, they are good.
TsunodaI didn’t have any grip.
Restart, Suzuka, 2024
Tsunoda switched to soft tyres for the restart, which paid off

For the restart, RB put Tsunoda on soft tyres instead. He used them to split the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in ninth place, while Stroll was behind Esteban Ocon – who picked up damage in a clash with his team mate – and Valtteri Bottas.

Lap: 3/53 STR: 2’14.682, TSU: 2’23.191
TsunodaAfter passing three cars at the restart
That’s how we do it! Let’s go.
SpiniGood job. Yuki! Mode ‘seven’. Come on.
Lap: 4/53 STR: 1’39.528, TSU: 1’39.108
VizardFor info, Bottas ahead is soft. Ocon is hard.
Lap: 5/53 STR: 1’39.552, TSU: 1’39.508
VizardDRS is now active. DRS active.
VizardSo Ocon is struggling on the hard, he’s got poor traction. It’s important for us to get past him if you can.
VizardYou can use overtake into turn one, if you need.
Lap: 6/53 STR: 1’38.746, TSU: 1’38.887
VizardAfter passing Ocon
Good job. Car ahead, Bottas, is soft.
Lap: 7/53 STR: 1’38.624, TSU: 1’40.998
VizardYou’ll see Bottas has boxed ahead, so we’ll need to extend a little bit. Currently this is now lap seven.

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Battling for balance

George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda, Suzuka, 2024
After Russell passed Tsunoda, two cars separated the RB from Stroll

While many in the back half of the field pitted early for hard tyres, including Tsunoda, Stroll stayed out slightly longer and switched to mediums on lap 11. Stroll was then behind the RB driver and they both soon passed Ocon, Stroll doing so for the second time.

Lap: 15/53 STR: 1’38.125, TSU: 1’39.925
VizardFor info, Tsunoda the car ahead. He’s on five lap older hard tyres.
Lap: 17/53 STR: 1’38.057, TSU: 1’37.944
VizardGot energy if you need. Tsunoda has DRS on Ocon.
VizardAfter passing Ocon
Good move, mate. Well done. So, on the front of this train you’ve got Sargeant. He’s doing the same thing as Ocon, so he’s on 11-lap older hards.

Tsunoda and Stroll were now both in the thick of a train of seven cars led by Kevin Magnussen and covered by just six seconds. Stroll began to complain about his car’s handling in the dirty air. That all changed at the end of lap 23 when Magnussen, Bottas, Logan Sargeant, Tsunoda and Stroll all decided to pit at the same time to avoid being undercut by Ocon’s Alpine.

Lap: 19/53 STR: 1’39.757, TSU: 1’39.658
StrollNo free air…
VizardYeah, copy that. You’re doing a good job, though. I’ll take a balance feedback, Lance, then you can use energy into turn one.
StrollThe balance is bad because I’m behind four cars…
Lap: 22/53 STR: 1’42.328, TSU: 1’41.916
StrollThere’s no free air. That’s the problem when you have a DRS train, no free air.SpiniAs Tsunoda brakes for the chicane
Box, box, Yuki. Box. Box, box. Strat eight.
VizardBox this lap. Box this lap. Let me know a flap adjust.

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Pivotal pit stop

Stroll left his pit box side-by-side with Magnussen but managed to leave the pits ahead of the Haas driver. Although he was passed by Ocon on the run to turn one, Stroll managed to sneak by him around the outside of turn six moments later.

Stroll was investigated for the pit lane incident with Magnussen. The stewards determined he broke no rules by emerging alongside the Haas and not merging into the queue, because Bottas was close behind, and he passed Magnussen after leaving the pits.

At the same time, Tsunoda had pitted just ahead of Stroll from 13th, but a rapid stop by the RB mechanics meant he left the pits ahead of all of his rivals and rejoined the track narrowly in front of Ocon. A delighted Tsunoda made sure to show his appreciation to his team.

Lap: 23/53 STR: 1’56.743, TSU: 1’57.251
VizardSo all in – you’ll need to blend, Lance.TsunodaTsunoda is released ahead of the three cars he pitted with
Good job, guys! Well done! Thank you.
VizardAfter release
Blend! Blend! So straight. We’ll have Ocon at pit exit as well. Ocon, pit exit.
SpiniOvertake button, pit exit – Ocon! Fighting Ocon, pit exit.
VizardStroll passes Ocon in Esses again
Lovely work, mate. Lovely work! Well done. That’s Tsunoda, hards, ahead.
TsunodaTsunoda gets through sector one still in 11th
Good job, guys! Good job.
VizardSo we’re currently net P11. Net P11. Use energy, Lance. Use energy again.SpiniGood.
SpiniOkay, Stroll behind you, 30 laps remaining. Watch for your tyres. Control the gap – watch the tyres.
Yuki Tsunoda, Lance Stroll, Suzuka, 2024
Stroll got close to Tsunoda but couldn’t make a pass stick

With Nico Hulkenberg ahead of the pair of them and yet to make his second pit stop, Tsunoda and Stroll were now effectively fighting for the final point in 10th. Stroll got close to the RB along the pit straight at the start of their second lap out of the pits, but Tsunoda held off the Aston Martin and was more concerned about the understeer he was experiencing despite being in dirty air.

Lap: 25/53 STR: 1’36.995, TSU: 1’37.073
VizardLance, K-0 would help, now. K-0.Tsunoda[Unclear] turn eight.
SpiniDo what you need.
TsunodaMissing apex of hairpin
I just need rotation. So much understeer!
SpiniOkay. Open diff-straight.

Sitting behind Tsunoda, Stroll was struggling to put the RB under any real pressure. But his biggest concern was how he was struggling to reel in Tsunoda along the two main straights around the Suzuka circuit.

Lap: 26/53 STR: 1’37.307, TSU: 1’37.037
VizardLate ‘overtake’ only, Lance. Late ‘overtake’ only. A bit of K-0 in the lap will be good.
StrollSo quick on a straight line…
StrollYeah, copy that. We can just take a breath for a minute. Get a bit of K-0, get the pack back up.

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Aston Martin make the call

Sitting behind Tsunoda had seemingly not done his new hard tyres many favours. Stroll was resigned to the idea that he would not be able to overtake the RB on track while they were both running the same age hard tyres, so he lobbied the team to consider pitting him again, which they eventually did at the end of lap 33.

Lap: 27/53 STR: 1’37.244, TSU: 1’37.184
StrollAnd overtakings will be challenging.
VizardOkay Lance, I understand that message. We are thinking about plan-B, for info. Thinking about plan-B.

RB warned Tsunoda about Stroll’s strategy, but directed their driver to simply focus on making his hard tyres go the distance so they would not be forced to have to pit him too late in the race.

Lap: 29/53 STR: 1’37.633, TSU: 1’37.319
TsunodaAny threat other than Stroll?
SpiniNot at the moment.
Lap: 30/53 STR: 1’37.361, TSU: 1’37.617
SpiniNo DRS for Stroll.
Lap: 31/53 STR: 1’37.729, TSU: 1’37.676
SpiniHulkenberg in front is on old hards and is slow.
Lap: 32/53 STR: 1’38.202, TSU: 1’38.624
Vizard‘Hulkenberg ahead is 26-lap old hard. There’s 20 laps remaining, 20 laps remaining.
Lap: 33/53 STR: 1’39.609, TSU: 1’38.692
StrollThese tyres are done, man. And I’m not in free air, I don’t understand.
Lap: 34/53 STR: 1’39.550, TSU: 1’37.793
StrollOkay Lance, we understand. We are looking at plan-B.
StrollI don’t think so, because it’s ridiculous. I can’t pass Tsunoda! It’s not possible.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Suzuka, 2024
A final switch to soft tyres – his fifth new set of the race – failed to pay off for Stroll

Despite the advantage of new soft tyres, Aston Martin were eager for Stroll not to take too much out of them too early so that he could still be in a position to catch and overtake Tsunoda near the end of the race.

But despite Stroll taking the gap to Tsunoda down from 19 seconds out of the pit lane to around nine within ten laps, it was becoming clear to the driver that he was not on track to catch him.

Lap: 35/53 STR: 1’53.728, TSU: 1’37.626
VizardSo you’ll have 18 laps to do it on this tyre, Lance. Eighteen laps to do it. We don’t think Tsunoda’s a threat for now. We need to make this tyre go to the end. We think slips are too high at the minute. So just make sure you’re gentle introduction.SpiniOkay, Yuki, Stroll is boxing now. Behind, Magnussen – five seconds and 19 to go.
What do you mean, ‘you don’t think he’s a threat’? You think I’ll get him easily?
TsunodaAre they fitting mediums? Or hards or softs?
SpiniYuki, correction: They are fitting softs. Fitting softs.
Lap: 36/53 STR: 1’35.973, TSU: 1’37.103
VizardSo, Tsunoda’s already in our pit window. So we either have tyres at the end to get him, or he stops behind us. So we don’t need to push these tyres now. Just manage them.SpiniTyres are good. Yuki, we are clearly faster than the cars behind. So do your thing on tyres. You’re good.
VizardOkay, Lance, so big picture. There are three cars ahead on 13-lap hards and they’re all going to the end. So the first one is Bottas, he’s 12 ahead. So we’ve got to creep up to the back of them and have tyres at the end.

This was good news for Tsunoda, who was advised about the progress that Stroll was making on his softs. However, the time advantage he held over the Aston Martin was a reassuring one for him and the team.

Lap: 42/53 STR: 1’36.556, TSU: 1’37.493
VizardJust make sure we’re saving these tyres. We’ve easily got the pace, you can see we’re going to catch at least the two in front and probably Tsunoda as well.
Lap: 44/53 STR: 1’36.485, TSU: 1’37.329
StrollI don’t see Tsunoda, haha…SpiniOkay, Yuki, situation: Stroll pitted, he is behind two cars on hard – he needs to overtake them and he’s 9.5 behind us.
VizardSo we are catching Tsunoda a second a lap. He’s a few seconds ahead of these guys, but for now we just need to get through Magnussen, Bottas if we can. So they’re on 21-lap-old hard, Lance.
Lap: 45/53 STR: 1’36.806, TSU: 1’37.250
TsunodaHe’s softs, no?
SpiniHe is on soft.
TsunodaLet me know when he overtakes them.
TsunodaHe overtook one car and needs to overtake Magnussen now.

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Stroll stresses, Tsunoda celebrates

As the laps wound down, Stroll was becoming increasingly aware that he was unlikely to get through the cars he needed and pass Tsunoda by the end of the race. Even though he was able to clear Bottas and Magnussen over consecutive laps, Stroll was feeling anything but positive about it.

Lap: 46/53 STR: 1’36.350, TSU: 1’37.046
StrollAfter passing Magnussen
It’s unbelievable how bad our speed is on the straight, man! Like, it’s a different category!
SpiniOkay, Yuki, now Stroll is behind – 7.6. Seven laps to go after this.
VizardAwesome, mate. So we got that one alright, that was awesome. Tsunoda, we were catching by a second a lap before we got these, guys okay. So he’s seven ahead. Just wanna have some tyres at the end okay?

After his race engineer Ben Michell moved from the pit wall to the new Aston Martin factory following the Australian Grand Prix, this was the first official race weekend for the partnership of Stroll and new engineer Andrew Vizard. Stroll’s feedback about how their first race together had gone, though not directed at Vizard’s efforts, was not particularly glowing.

Lap: 47/53 STR: 1’36.704, TSU: 1’37.106
StrollFrickin’ horrible race, man! Ugh!
Lap: 48/53 STR: 1’38.033, TSU: 1’37.038
VizardYeah, it’s not over yet, though.SpiniStroll is obeying a blue flag to Verstappen now and you can see the gap on the dash.
SpiniFive laps after this.

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Over the final laps, Mattia Spini continued to keep his driver Tsunoda updated about the progress of Stroll behind. Eventually, it was obvious that there was not much to be concerned about.

Stroll’s pace dropped off so much he was caught and passed on the final lap by Hulkenberg, who had newer tyres. That left him 12th and, with no hope of attacking the Haas, Stroll began to back off in the final sector before he reached the finishing line.

The Aston Martin driver rounded the last corner out of the chicane with just a single hand on the wheel. When Vizard commiserated with him, Stroll did not appear to be in a particularly vocal mood.

Tsunoda proved far more positive. He had put together another strong driver in 2024 and secured back-to-back points for his team as well as his first in his home country. He made sure to give credit to everyone who had helped him over the weekend – particular his mechanics and the thousands of fans who had cheered him on around Suzuka across the three days.

Lap: 49/53 STR: 1’36.381, TSU: 1’36.557
SpiniStroll eight behind, you’re good.
Lap: 50/53 STR: 1’36.165, TSU: 1’36.388
SpiniOkay, Yuki, Verstappen three behind, he’s going to get blue flags. Stroll is eight at the moment.
Lap: 51/53 STR: 1’36.270, TSU: 1’36.342
TsunodaHow many laps more?
SpiniStroll: 7.5.
Lap: 52/53 STR: 1’39.818, TSU: 1’38.195
SpiniOkay, blue flag for Verstappen – 1.3 behind. Stroll: eight.
SpiniLet Verstappen by.
SpiniLast lap. Hulkenberg behind: six. Last lap.
Lap: 53/53 STR: , TSU:
VizardOkay, that’s the flag, Lance. That’s the flag. Unlucky. That was a hard race – didn’t really get the free air we wanted to. That’s P12 in the end, P12.SpiniChequered flag, Yuki. Fantastic P10! What a drive! What a drive. Well done.
TsunodaHaha, well done! Ah, that’s a good one. Thanks. Big credit to the mechanics, what a fantastic pit stop. Amazing. That’s crazy. The team’s done a fantastic job. Also, thanks for the massive support from all the Japanese fans and the people who support me.
SpiniYeah, good job from the entire team. And charge ‘on’, please. Charge ‘on’.
Yuki Tsunoda, RB, Suzuka, 2024
RB celebrated Tsunoda’s first points finish in his home race

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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...

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6 comments on “How Tsunoda seized on Stroll’s “frickin’ horrible race” to snatch home point”

  1. Stroll couldn’t overtake a much slower RB car, but he did manage to lose position to even slower Haas; despite having relatively fresh tires I imagine (with those 3 pit stops). Nepotism has no place at such a high competition level in the XXI century. I wouldn’t mind people buying seats and whole teams even, if this was still an open competition. But since they all (including AM) vote against new teams and more available driving seats, this almost looks dishonorable to me.
    Lance said he’s doing his talking at the track. Too bad he talks gibberish…

    1. Yes, it’s inexcusable imo now that most teams are so averse to letting new teams join that there’s drivers like stroll who get beaten by their team mate every single season and that there’s teams like toro rosso, giving a massive advantage to red bull with no other team able to get a 2nd team they fully control.

    2. If toro rosso stays they should allow teams to buy minor teams that aren’t racing atm in f1 and use them for their experiments and we know exactly who’s gonna do that: ferrari, mercedes, maybe mclaren or aston; minor teams would complain about this giving an advantage to major teams, as if red bull doesn’t already have that advantage.

  2. Just want to say I really enjoy this kind of article.

    To see the way these guys are thinking and planing stuff whilst driving at crazy speeds is brilliant.

    1. Agreed, one of my favorite features on Racefans

    2. I’m sure it’s quite a bit of work to give us these articles, but please keep them coming, they are so incredibly worthwhile to read.

      they really give a great insight on how these battles play out over the laps, what the teams do and say and how drivers react.

Comments are closed.