The “limitations” acknowledged by Tsunoda are still very costly

The “limitations” acknowledged by Tsunoda are still very costly

Yuki Tsunoda’s speed and erratic tendencies often clash. It makes him both fun and frustrating to watch, plus he’s a very valuable Formula 1 driver to AlphaTauri and someone who has made mistakes that can be costly.

Tsunoda is a fantastic young driver at the top of his game, and his progress since his rapid arrival into Formula 1 in 2021 has been clear. It’s still inconsistent, with a question mark over how efficient it is and whether it can soften the edges enough to realize that potential, but the raw ingredients are real.

His career-best 2023 season showcased his good and bad sides perfectly. Tsunoda’s ten points in the final three races were vital to AlphaTauri jumping two places in the championship and he was some distance away from stealing seventh place from Williams.

But he could and should have scored more.

Had Tsunoda not carelessly collided with Oscar Piastri in Mexico or had a half-spin in Brazil that cost him a place (possibly two places), AlphaTauri would have been ahead of Williams rather than seven points behind him. It is no coincidence that these two errors came while Tsunoda was playing catch-up, trying to salvage a better result.

None of the mediocre grid position was Tsunoda’s fault. In Mexico, he received a penalty for an engine change, and in Brazil, AlphaTauri did not perform well in qualifying (he was still faster than Daniel Ricciardo). But Tsunoda’s response in both cases was to start well, drive well, then drive fast – Then he makes a mistake.

Couple that with an excellent and flawless drive to sixth place in the Brazilian sprint race, even after sustaining some damage after being pushed over the curb exiting Turn 2 on the opening lap.

“I was more patient than the last races,” he said after that trip.

“In radio, usually when I’m good, I’m not bad. When I’m worse, I tend to be more enthusiastic, so that’s definitely my limitation.

“I think I did well, I didn’t push too much to pass Lewis (Hamilton) either. That was good, flashbacks from Mexico. But I’m very happy with the race car.”

About 24 hours later, Tsunoda was still happy. But he also apologized after a completely unnecessary mistake, which thankfully had no greater consequences.

“That was a big mistake, I apologize to the team,” Tsunoda said of a wheel carelessly landing on the grass and a semi-circular spin on his first lap.

“That was a big mistake, and a bit scary. I f***ed my pants. Fortunately I didn’t DNF.”

There is a trend that when things are going well, Tsunoda looks very good. When they are not, and he becomes “overexcited,” errors appear. For Tsunoda, that could mean a radio blast, a lapse in concentration, or a costly rush of impatience.

Don’t take our word for it. Former teammate Pierre Gasly, who knows Tsunoda well and has a great personal relationship, believes controlling this is the key to consistently exploiting his potential.

Gasly believes Tsunoda is faster than he is given credit for, although Tsunoda’s speed has rarely been the subject of criticism this season. But a change in mindset, focus and extra effort has boosted Tsunoda’s growth into what he is now, which is why it’s possible that he can also improve his remaining large deficit.

“He’s changed his attitude, he’s slightly underestimated the work it takes to become a top Formula 1 driver,” Gasly said.

“I don’t send myself flowers, but I was able to make him understand that he will have to work harder to stay (in Formula 1) and get the full potential from himself.

“He has the pace to be there, and he needs to put himself in the zone where he can remain calmer and less sensitive to some situations, which doesn’t always play in his favour.”

Failure to do so at times in the last two events has come at an inflated cost given the limited opportunities AlphaTauri has had to turn its late-season performance spike into the best possible championship result.

If Tsunoda can get past this in the long term – and he hopes to use Ricciardo to do so – it will benefit him greatly.

Then whatever his team may lose in the moments he has gotten too “hot” this season, he should be able to pay it back multiple times over.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *