The story so far: Yuki Tsunoda

Published on 7 June 2023 at 20:00

Nathan Hartley 


Tsunoda has entered his third year as a Formula 1 driver this season. The Japanese driver has had an up-and-down career so far, with many suggesting that he can get a bit too hot-headed at times. However, the AlphaTauri driver is seen as a 'diamond in the rough' with his impressive raw pace in the car.

Entering Formula 1

Tsunoda spent one season in Formula 2, thoroughly impressing many around the paddock with his raw pace. The Japanese driver raced for Carlin, finishing the season with 200 points, earning him third in the 2020 Formula 2 drivers' championship. 


This was enough for the hot prospect to land a seat at AlphaTauri for the 2021 season. The Japanese driver replaced outgoing Daniil Kvyat at AlphaTauri to partner up with Frenchman Pierre Gasly for the 2021 season.


With lots of anticipation to see what he could do, they would all find out at the season-opener in Bahrain. The 2021 season would be the last season of its current regulations before changing to ground-effects cars for 2022.


Tsunoda qualified 13th at his debut race in Bahrain. However, the rookie provided some entertainment in the race with many overtakes. He would go on to overtake Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll on the last lap to secure a ninth-placed finish, scoring points on his debut.


However, Tsunoda's 2021 season would be riddled with mistakes and reliability issues. The AlphaTauri driver would spin in qualifying at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, damaging the rear of his car significantly.


Reliability issues would strike at the Spanish Grand Prix, forcing Tsunoda to retire from the race. Controversially, the Japanese driver questioned the team whether he had the "same car" as teammate Gasly, but later apologised for his actions.


Tsunoda would also crash in qualifying at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, although he did make it to Q3. However, he was getting a reputation of pushing too hard, which lead to him crashing a lot. However, the Japanese rookie would have a good race in Baku, finishing seventh, which landed him his first points since his debut race in Bahrain, ending a four-race point drought.


Tsunoda would claim two points in the next four rounds, finishing 10th in Austria and Britain, before the famous and chaotic race at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix.


The Japanese rookie would finish the chaotic race at Budapest in a season-best sixth place. The AlphaTauri driver took advantage of the chaos in front of him. However, he would not score any points in the next five rounds, whilst teammate Gasly was.


It would take until the United States Grand Prix for Tsunoda to pick up a ninth place finish to secure points finally. However, he would once again go on another points drought for the next four rounds.


It would take until the final round of the 2021 championship in Abu Dhabi for him to secure his best result of the season. Taking advantage of the controversial ruling at the season finale, Tsunoda went full attack on the soft tyre to finish just outside the podium positions in fourth.


Overall, the season could be seen as a disappointment. The Japanese rookie finished on 32 points, ending 14th in the drivers' championship. To rub salt into the wounds, Gasly had an astonishing season, ending ninth with an impressive 110 points.


Despite having such a large deficit, many saw what Tsunoda could do on track with his raw pace, leaving many still excited for what is to come with the Japanese driver.

Gradual improvements despite worse car

The 2022 season saw a complete overhaul in regulations with the new ground-effects cars. The new regulations were brought in to promote better racing, providing less dirty air to the cars in front.


AlphaTauri had their best season in Formula 1 last year, taking advantage of the high-rake philosophy Red Bull had in 2021 with the minor changes to the floor regulations.


However, the 2022 season would be a season for the Faenza-based team to forget, as it seemed as though they got the regulations completely wrong, meaning that they were competing at the back of the midfield for the majority of the season.


Tsunoda would retain his seat alongside Pierre Gasly for the second season as the pair formed a great relationship with each other on and off the track.


The Japanese driver would once again score points at the season opener in Bahrain, finishing in eighth place. However, it was still clear that the car was not as good as the prior season.


This would show as Tsunoda would not score any points for the next two races, even to the point where he didn't start the race in Jeddah due to a fuel issue on the formation lap.


Despite the setbacks, Tsunoda managed to secure an impressive seventh place finish at a wet Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and also scored a point at the Spanish Grand Prix.


However, after the race in Spain, disaster would strike. Tsunoda would go on a 12-race point drought. During that time the Japanese driver hit the wall in Monaco qualifying and also had to retire from the race in Azerbaijan, whilst running in seventh place, after a DRS failure.


The AlphaTauri driver also made a mistake coming out of the pits at the Canadian Grand Prix, sliding into the wall. He would also make a mistake at the British Grand Prix, colliding with his teammate Pierre Gasly, in which he later apologised.


Tsunoda would also crash out of the Singapore Grand Prix, whilst running in the points. He would get his final point of the season at the Unted States Grand Prix, finishing 10th, before not scoring any points in the final three rounds.


Overall, a disappointing season as a whole for AlphaTauri - not providing a good car for their drivers and some mistakes on Tsunoda's side. The Japanese driver would finish on 12 points compared to Gasly's 23, showing improvement in closing in on Gasly's performances.

Team leader required

Despite Tsunoda worrying he had not done enough to retain his seat, the team would announce that he would stay for the 2023 season in September 2022. However, he would be driving along with a new face as Gasly left the team for Alpine.


Tsunoda would partner up with Nyck de Vries after the Dutchman impressed at the Italian Grand Prix in 2022, scoring points in a one-off outing with Williams.


We are only seven rounds into the championship, but Tsunoda has impressed thoroughly this season. He has outshone De Vries in every department.


However, the car is still not competitive with the Japanese driver finishing 11th in the opening two rounds before scoring back-to-back 10th place finishes in Australia and Azerbaijan.


However, he would not score points in Miami, Monaco or Spain. Although in Spain, Tsunoda got unlucky with receiving a five-second time penalty for forcing Zhou Guanyu off the track, which demoted him outside the points positions.


Overall, it is clear to see Tsunoda has a lot of talent. It is just about putting it all together. With Honda entering back into the sport in 2026, could Tsunoda make the move to Aston Martin in 2026?

Add comment


There are no comments yet.