Yuki Tsunoda, RB, Suzuka, 2024

Tsunoda ‘at Verstappen and Alonso’s level’ with Suzuka performance – Marko

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Yuki Tsunoda produced a performance worthy of two multiple champion in his home race weekend, says Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko.

He lavished praise on Tsunoda’s form across the Suzuka weekend, comparing it to that of Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso. The RB driver beat team mate Daniel Ricciardo to the final place in Q3, then out-ran Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and others to score the final point.

Tsunoda’s race started badly as he lined up on the medium compound tyres and was pounced on by rivals who used the soft rubber. However at the restart which followed his team mate’s first-lap crash, Tsunoda switched to soft tyres and regained those lost places and more.

“At the second start, Yuki did sensationally well,” Marko told Red Bull-owned publication Speed Week. “His overtaking manoeuvres were the show of the day.

“The fans were completely over the moon. His weekend was at the level of Max, Alonso and co. Flawless, a great performance under the pressure of his home race.”

Marko’s words will offer encouragement to Tsunoda that, after four years with Red Bull’s second team, he may be under serious consideration for promotion to the senior outfit. But although team mate Sergio Perez is out of contract at the end of the year, he has started the season strongly and finished second to Verstappen on Sunday.

“Checo was also very solid,” said Marko. “He was unlucky at the pit stop, but he got himself back into the game with a great manoeuvre against Hamilton in the [130R] corner. He’s definitely having his best season with us so far.”

Marko indicated Red Bull will not take a decision on who will be Verstappen’s team mate next year until later in the season.

“In my opinion, the fact that the transfer rumor mill is already cooking like this at the beginning of April is due to several factors,” he said. “First: Hamilton announced his move to Ferrari so early. And if ‘radio paddock’ is to be trusted, Audi wants a decision from Carlos Sainz [Jnr] very soon. Aston Martin is also putting pressure in several directions.

“We do not take part in these games. We won’t hear from Red Bull Racing until the middle of the season about what’s going on in terms of personnel.”

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Keith Collantine
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79 comments on “Tsunoda ‘at Verstappen and Alonso’s level’ with Suzuka performance – Marko”

  1. Marko ramping up to Ricciardo decision

    1. It’s a story about Tsu. Why bring the hate.

  2. I don’t get the hype train for Tsonudas performance. It’s a feel good story to have a Japanese driver in the points in his home race… but was his performance that special? RB were the 6the quickest team pace wise.. which means he had to just beat one driver from the top 5 teams and his teammate to get in to Q3. Luckily for him there’s a certain Lance stroll who made his job pretty easy… and he narrowly out qualified an off form Ricciardo.

    The race on Sunday was error free and solid… but nothing special according to me. A couple of good overtaking moves and strong performance by his pit crew got him the point.

    1. How dare you view this in a rational and balanced way ;)

    2. I think it’s just difficult to know without a competent driver next to him for comparison. I love Danny Ric but he’s such an unknown right now. And he’s been destroyed by Yuki since he returned last year…

      I think Yuki is racing very well at the moment. Just how well it’s difficult to know without having the intra-team information… maybe he really was outpacing the car.

      1. He wasn’t better than Gasly, that’s for sure.

        1. And Gasly is no Ayrton Senna either. But that was old Yuki. I think he gained confindence when he started beating his team mates (De Vries and Ric), regardless of their current calibre.

          1. I think so too, to be fair. Also, he was slowly (perhaps too slowly?) getting better relative to Gasly over time; although Pierre was already in Alpine in his head.
            Would I bring him to the “real” RB? No, I think there are faster and, to put this bluntly, smarter drivers out there. Do I think he could be a decent option for teams like Aston, the future Honda-powered team (instead of Stroll, not Alonso ofc), or Sauber/Audi, Alpine, Williams, Haas… He should grow up though, and fast, because those aren’t “junior” teams, and they won’t tolerate his strange moments.

    3. I think it was a combo of Tsunoda at the pitcrew, though I can see where you are coming from. Tsunoda got undercut by Bottas in that first stint which confined his pace somewhat, and then got stuck in the DRS train behind KMag. So the team bailed him out of that with the stop – or rather Haas, Sauber, and Williams bailed him out their stops were over 4 seconds so they were just slow.

      However it was after that stop where Tsunoda did his part to secure the point. He held off Stroll in the faster AM, and while Stroll is terrible in qualifying, the pace of the AM still comes through on Sunday. Tsunoda managed to keep him behind while at the same time managing his tyres. When Stroll and Hulkenberg pitted to try and come at him with fresher tyres, while they were able to catch and pass KMag and Bottas, they did not get close to Tsunoda who had kept life in his tyres.

      So perhaps not a Verstappen performance as Marko claims, but still a good one with challenges he had to overcome. It was by no means a simple race for him.

    4. Yuki had two very nice overtakes in the Ss but i have to agree he drove very well and had a good race. Still not a Max Verstappen :)

      1. + 1 to all of the comments above.

      2. Still not a Max Verstappen

        True, Yuki’s record for his first few seasons is no match for Max’s.
        Yuki is way behind on the count of crashes, especially with his teammate. :)

    5. I completely agree with you Todfod. I somehow see this as Marko not wanting Red Bull to hire Sainz because he does not want competition for his golden boy Verstappen.

    6. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      10th April 2024, 19:55

      I also don’t see it as a perticuarly amazing drive. He had a poor start and was overtaken by Bottas and the main reason why he got back ahead of Bottas and the others was more due to his team than him. He didn’t seem to be able to pass bottas before hand and I would say the Sauber was the 9th best car. 8th at best. Simply put, Bottas arguably did as good a job. Yes he couldn’t pass Magnussen, but I think the Haas is clearly a better car than the Sauber.

      And I would say that this weekend, Williams, Haas, Alpine and Sauber were very clearly worse. Had all the cars been in their rough performance order, 11th or 12th should be the minimum expected. And with Stroll putting in the performance as underwhelming as he did, that helped him a bit. I would say it was a slightly better than average drive, and certainly not amazing.

      I feel the high praise for him is partially related to his nationality and the fact it is the same as the track.

      All this said, I do think Tsunoda is more solid and consistent than he used to be – so far.

    7. Yeah. I mean, sure, Tsunoda did do the job, got into Q3, was there to take the advantage when the team managed their excellent pitstop gambit and made it work. But Alonso level? For that he would have had to be harrying Hamilton, or even defending from him for a large part of the race!

    8. Who did anything special?

  3. Wellbalanced
    10th April 2024, 9:39

    Quite interesting that he is praising Alonso there.

    1. Coventry Climax
      10th April 2024, 9:52

      Eh, what was your username again?

    2. And Max too, who else is there?

    3. I thought Max was getting bored and would like some actually competition on the team and since he and Fernando have gotten along so well, I thought he might like that option.

      But recent comments by Max make me think he either doesn’t want to lose leverage in the team due the Horner/Helmut battle by having another driver in the team who could easily deliver titles in that car and/or he just doesn’t want quite that much competition.

      Max said he didn’t think FA would make much sense for RBR because of his age. But Max has never cared before about who the second driver was and I don’t believe for a second he actually cares that RBR pick a younger driver who could provide the team 5+ more years.

  4. Don’t let Audi rush you Carlos.
    If you keep performing at this level – and I see no reason why you shouldn’t – then you are going to get some very sweet offers I should think.

    1. Coventry Climax
      10th April 2024, 10:12

      Yeah, that would be a rather silly decision, going to Audi. If not plain suicide.
      We will see if Audi make any real progress beyond the Sauber level. On track that is, please, not by media messages, which I’m sure will tell of grand plans and goals. There’s consistently quite a lot of teams with grand plans for the future, which they hardly ever deliver on, sadly.

    2. For what team though? The only good seat for Carlos is the redbull. Next it’s the McLaren but Ferrari currently better and McLaren have two drivers. McLaren and e ery other option is a backwards step for him.

      Not sure he’ll be treated well at redbull but it’s his best option

      1. Red Bull, it cannot get much better than that. But this is just spectaculation. I’m afraid Checo is a keeper for RBR in his present form, much to the detriment of F1 watchers

  5. Coventry Climax
    10th April 2024, 10:03

    After four years and one ‘stellar’ performance (there’s been more fairly decent, but we never heard Marko much about those), he’ll have to deliver similar or even better for the rest of the entire season, before he’s considered for RBR.

    What this Marko speak does achieve though, is putting more pressure on Ricciardo. He will have to start deliver quite convincingly and on quite short notice too, otherwise he’s out.

    Personally, I don’t see it happen for Ricciardo. It’s gotten to the point where I start questioning whether he’s ever even had a mojo, instead of just having lost it and needing to find it again. There’s a strange similarity with how things went with Vettel, after he left RBR. And all the more interesting to see how Hamilton will fare at Ferrari.

    1. There’s a strange similarity with how things went with Vettel, after he left RBR

      How? Vettel won a boatload of races at Ferrari and mounted one, maybe two if you’re feeling generous, title challenges that, for reasons more complicated than often claimed, did not last the entire season.

      Ricciardo had done nothing even remotely similar. He is one of those drivers who seems to always be rated based on a one off best season (2014). He has been in the sport for over ten years. He isn’t suddenly going to transform into something else.

      1. He is one of those drivers who seems to always be rated based on a one off best season (2014).

        Ricciardo’s rated not just on thoroughly ‘beating’ Vettel in 2014, but also outdoing Verstappen for at least two years (suffering 2.5x as many retirements as Verstappen in 2018) in what was already Verstappen’s team. Then at Renault, he was the better performer again.
        And while he clearly wasn’t comfortable at McLaren – he did take a win, which Norris still hasn’t managed to do.

        1. Ricciardo outdid Verstappen for those who don’t watch F1.

          1. I didn’t say exactly how Ricciardo outdid – but just one way is by championship points…
            Subjectively and/or objectively, there may be other ways – which you may or may not recognise.

        2. Well, there you have it why Ricciardo is wrongfully perceived as a good driver. It is based on his performance vs Vettel and Verstappen. Vettel is incredibly overrated and Max was very young. So the comparison is void.

          It misses that Vettel is at best a mediocre driver who lucked into a stellar car for 4 years in a row. Didn’t win anything if not starting from pole. Clumsy at wheel to wheel situations and only achieved anything because he is good during qualifying. As to Verstappen, he was 17 and had a streak of bad luck and lots of technical failures, but the data clearly indicated Ricciardo couldn’t hold a candle next to Verstappen. Hence he threw away all and fled the team.

          1. I think saying vettel is mediocre is harsh (and I’m nowhere near a fan of him, rather the opposite): webber wasn’t a terrible driver and wasn’t anywhere near him in performance. I think vettel was pretty good back in red bull and in ferrari 2015 and 2017; I blame him for losing 2018 and wasn’t impressed the other ferrari years either.

      2. Ricciardi’s performances in the next two seasons at Renault were more impressive than anything Vettel did at Ferrari. He dominated his teammates + was constantly getting more out of the car than others could, including Sainz, Hulkenberg and Ocon. There was no team even close to the Ferrari in 2017 for example and in that context, his performances were hardly sublime. Then he collapsed at McLaren and has had what 7 races with RB since then? He looks washed now, but we don’t know for sure yet.

        Not sure how 2014 was his only good season when you look at his full record:
        -2014: Utterly smashed Vettel 3 wins to 0 in his first season there
        -2015: Beat Kyvat
        -2016 – 2018 Edged Max in points, head-to-head quali and tied on wins, but had RBR not totally blew his stop he would have two Monaco wins making it 4-3. So, the only one driver to ever beat Max or even be close for that matter.
        -2019:!Handily beat Hulkenberg (who beat Sainz)
        -2020: Put Ocon deep in the shade
        -2021-22: his downfall
        -A time during which he put together as many wins as Sainz, Leclerc, George + Lando combined. Sainz only has like one less season too.

        So, how was 2014 his only impressive season?

    2. @Coventry Climax Maybe Dan will become the new Marcus Ericsson?
      Kept at RBVCAPP as the benchmark by which future junior drivers are judged; if you can’t beat Dan, then you are not good enough for F1.
      So Dan can serve the rest of his time in F1 in RBVCA and will not be considered good enough for a better seat anywhere.

  6. Since quite some time now the experts have been praising Tsunoda repeatedly. The fans are still like “nothing special”. Why is that?

    1. Marko has his own interests, or interests of his team in mind when he makes public statements. We don’t need to play mind games.

      1. I think you are correct. It’s a bit of an embellishment to say Yuki was on a par with Verstappen and Alonso. But like you say I don’t think the fans were necessarily the intended audience. It may be partly to do with the internal politics with Horner who some rumors have it, supports Ricciardo in quite a strong way.

    2. Fans express what the think or feel. Experts steer opinions to create attractive narratives.

      1. Fans (and experts) also don’t know all the info… drivers often say they have exceptional weekends that go way under the radar because of how are seen from the outside.

        1. This is why I have gone back to old seasons and rewatched multiple times to take notes on exactly what happened (one driver got thousands of km in pre-season vs hundreds for teammate or rival, got rain during one lap quali / was only one to get dry track, long stops, lucky or unlucky SCs, bad starts, terrible strategy calls, innocent party in a crash, questionable penalties or penalties due to the team, etc. I also make a note of results that might look like nothing on paper, but were great in reality)

          …and a hundred other things that 99.7% of people have no idea contributed to the result. There’s just sooo much that goes into results that most never notice and even the so called experts never account for. I’m genuinely surprised there’s no pub that focuses on just assessing driver/team weekends through a hyper detailed lens.

    3. He himself admitted the pit crew saved his race and we’re supposed to say it was something special?

      All i could see was him battling Bottas, Stroll and Hulk for a long time and clearing most of them in the pit stops.

      1. So you’re going to discredit him when most of 2023 and early this year AT strategy screwed him?

        1. Most of 2023? 2023 had more than 20 races dude, you’re trying to imply Yuki would be scoring points on most of them if not for the team making mistakes?

          1. Yes he was due to score points multiple times in Monaco, Zandvoort, Suzuka. Never mind how many points scoring finishes he had despite a rubbish car. Try watching the races for once

          2. Red Bull should pay more attention to this generational talent then? What are they waiting for!?

          3. ah, and you said “most of 2023” and was only able to mention 3 races. I knew you couldn’t back that claim.

      2. He had a great weekend, but suddenly saying his performances have been on par with Max or Alonso seems like Marko having an agenda even if he was just talking about this rare. However, I think Yuki is massively underrated. If he continues to run clean races with no contact and if he can avoid outbursts when things don’t go his way, he should be rated much more highly as the speed has never really been in doubt IMO.

        1. He was clearly talking only about this race, which makes more sense. Even so, seems an over the top compliment.

          Generally, not beating gasly does him no favours since gasly will never be considered a top driver and blew his chance on a top team.

    4. What experts? What other team would hire Tsunoda? Why was Tsunoda allowed four years of ‘getting used to it’ and De Vries less than a dozen races, Albon just over one season, etc.?

      It’s pretty clear that Honda requires Red Bull to race Tsunoda, probably for a discount. It’s how they’ve done business for decades, and many if not close to all Japanese drivers owe their careers in F1 to Honda engines. They really have a thing for Japanese drivers.

      Praising Tsunoda, who had nice moves but didn’t do anything special, is a nice enough thing to do after a decent home race. That it also puts pressure on a lacklustre Ricciardo is a, no doubt entirely unintentional, side effect.

      1. And in case anyone else is interested; Sato, Ide, Tsunoda drove all their races with Honda. Nakajima Sr., Aguri Suzuki and Nakano did most of their races with a Honda. Yamamoto did just seven races with Honda, the same as with Ferrari and Cosworth. Nakajima Jr. and Kobayashi were affiliated with Toyota, and the former did all his races with them, the latter only a few and then did most of his races with customer Ferrari engines.

        A handful of Japanese drivers who did a few races in the 70s naturally used Ford engines, as did almost everyone at the time.

        1. Coventry Climax
          10th April 2024, 19:01

          There is another Japanese automotive engine making company, that has either solely or in cooperation with others, made absolutely fantastic, world renowned engines, widely used in motorsports.
          Do some research. It’s Yamaha.

          1. They provided the (stickers on the Judd) engines when Katayama drove for Tyrrell in the mid-90s.

            It’s not only Japan – plenty of French nonsense, and the only times Williams-BMW, and Sauber-BMW, didn’t have a German driver was when he’d crashed and injured himself.
            I can see Tsunoda ending up at Aston Martin-Honda.

      2. How can you put albon in this comparison? He was at red bull, not toro rosso, ofc they expect driver to perform decently from the start in red bull, getting toro rosso-like results at red bull is unacceptable and fully support demoting albon and gasly when they did.

  7. If Yuki is as good as they now claim, why not drop him the Red Bull for Practice 1 if the rules allow it?

    1. Why on earth would they do that? they’d compromise both Perez and Yuki’s weekend for absolutely no reason, also compromising both Red Bull and RB because they’d be running alternative line-ups…

      1. Oh yeah, as if they care at all about compromising the sister team. Perez’s contract probably doesn’t allow that, but yeah, if Yuki is that great they should promote him. Instead he’ll still be there for a 5th season next year, giving Kvyat a run for his money as the longest serving driver in the history of that team.

        1. he wasn’t talking about a promotion… he was talking about taking over practice which makes no sense at all.

          1. …And Perez contract probably doesn’t allow that either.

    2. I honestly don’t see even in the best option how tsunoda could do any better than perez is doing now: he was beaten handily by gasly, who’s basically at perez’s level, let’s assume tsunoda improved by now, which is possible, he has more experience, he would be now at perez’s level, I don’t see how he could potentially trouble verstappen, because that’s the only thing perez isn’t doing atm.

  8. It’s not that Marko’s wrong, it’s just that for Alonso and Verstappen, Suzuka was just a regular Sunday drive.
    Can Tsunoda say the same?

    Great drivers have bad days. Mediocre drivers have good days.

    1. Agreed about Max but I’d say for Nando it was much more than that

    2. That last sentence is painfully spot on.

    3. Your last sentence + the best drivers are great from their rookie year. It’s why I think Yuki could have a career like a Hulkenberg, but doubt he’ll ever be on the level of Tier 2 drivers like Leclerc, Sainz and Lando (they could be T1 one day) let alone Tier 1 – Max, Lewis, Fernando. I am also beginning to think Oscar may never reach Tier 2.

      It’s the consistency of guys like Max, Alonso and Lewis who have destroyed so many teammates’ careers. Though Lewis tends not to have that consistency in tricky car. He makes up for it by having an additional half gear when in a great car.

      1. We must be the harshest on piastri on this website! Even so I think tier 2 is possible for him, and I was absolutely sure in 2019 leclerc would reach tier 1, I’m not sure any more now.

        1. He (CL) won’t. He simply lacks the race craft or consistency. He could still easily end up winning a WDC if he gets the best car or one equal to one and the other team doesn’t have a tier 1.

          I like Oscar. So, I hope he exceeds my expectations.

  9. I don’t know what I’d do with Tsunoda but I’d love to see PER and RIC at RB. RIC has shown that he no longer knows how to beat his teammate. PER used to be the best of the rest during his time at Force India/Racing Point. So how would they fare at the same team, it’s an interesting question …

  10. Utter poppycock!

    1. I think this is a reference to agenda for murder, a columbo episode where a lawyer is the murderer, he says that when columbo accuses him at the end.

  11. Yuki will be wherever Honda is.

  12. Mark is only raising his objection to Horner’s preferred choice for 2025: Sainz.

    1. Marko. That damn corrective tool.

    2. This.

      If the power struggle rumours are true, and we certainly saw rumblings that indicate they are, then it stands to reason that Marko is simply opposing Horner here. Yuki, unfortunately, is the pawn in the game.

      I guess these types of statements appease Honda as well. Two birds one stone perhaps for Marko.

    3. And Max suddenly saying Alonso doesn’t make sense for RBR shows he also doesn’t want a driver who lessens his leverage either, especially since we know he doesn’t care if RBR pick the best driver for the short or long term.

  13. I don’t care what’s going on in the background. Tsunoda is not at this level.

    It makes sense for Red Bull to keep Perez unless they want to crank up the pressure on Max to keep him from dying of boredom. Then, they should definitely go for Alonso, as he’ll spice things up even if he can’t compete at Max’s level. We may also get Maximum Alonso, as he will no longer need to be on his best behaviour to impress potential employers. If Max leaves, then they need an ace driver. That would be an argument for getting the best driver available no matter what. I don’t think anyone can beat Max. Alonso or Sainz should win the championship for Red Bull if they are number one and come second if Max remains. Perez could fluff it, but he’s all they need if Max is going nowhere.

    Unless he can get into Red Bull, Sainz’s best move would be to Ferrari. They’ll need to drop one of their existing drivers if they want to snap up the most on-form non-Max talent. The question is which of their under-performing drivers should they replace?!? After that, it’s very hard to tell. It would pay to wait and see how McLaren, Mercedes and Aston develop.

    McLaren doesn’t have a spot, unless a driver goes walkabout. I don’t see why they’d do this unless it’s to Red Bull.

    Mercedes seems to be a joke. Have they been asleep at the wheel or can they fix things? All that said, their car was or wasn’t far off being the best of the rest over the last two seasons.

    It’s too early to say a lot of things. Alonso must be enjoying his exalted position. Hopefully he isn’t still dancing after the music stops.

  14. Ricciardo is at least on par with Hulk, Ocon, Gasly, Albon, Bottas and Yuki is beating him and he deserved to be the best of the rest. He has beat Stroll on all 4 qualifying so far in a much inferior car. Sadly the gap to top5 is big and so far Hulk is the closest competitor to him.

    1. Much inferior car? Can’t aston be considered, depending on the race, the 5th best car? Toro rosso might be right behind, I’m not the only one thinking that, one of the comments above also considers it the 6th best team.

      1. The RB looks like the 6th best car, with a little light between them and Haas. Aston looks fifth best, but possibly a little better in qualifying. George and Lewis are generally strong qualifiers. When their times are close, that’s possibly all that can be strangled from the car. A lot of this is quite tight, so difficult to tell. I think it’s pretty clear that the top five are way ahead of the others, though.

        1. It’s pretty clear Lewis has been struggling in all quali sessions and both drivers did a mediocre job in Japan’s quali. But the Mercedes does have a clear pace gap to Ferrari and McLaren.

      2. Wow, you think AM are on the level of RB, Haas, Saubers ? The gap was around 30secs I think though in Japan, midfield were exposed more. Max lapped everyone other than top9. Yuki was nearly 50secs behind P9 in a 50lap race.

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