One of the Formula One drivers on the current grid is for many an enigma. Yuki Tsunoda has a reputation for a furious temper over team radio but outside the car is as nice as pie.
The Japanese got his Formula One driver ahead of others who may have been more deserving but his links with Honda meant both money and influence came his way and he debuted in the sport back in 2021.
Tsunoda jumps queue to F1 seat
Yuki spent just one year on Formula 3 and came an unremarkable P9 n the drivers’ title race in 2018. He was promoted to the title winning Formula 2 Carlin outfit the following season and his approach to racing was rather Monte Carlo or bust.
He won three events and claimed seven podium finishes in all, though Yuki finished outside the points 11 times over 24 rounds. Despite this high level of inconsistency Tsunoda finished third in the F2 drivers’ championship and was for some surprisingly promoted to the AlphaTauri squad.
Tsunoda was outclassed by his senior team mate Pierre Gasly and despite the repeated vote of confidence from his team boss Franz Tost, many thought this season would be the final hurrah for the Japanese driver.
AlphaTayri are having one of their worst years in recent memory and after 17 rounds Yuki sits 17th in the drivers’ championship with just 3 points. Even the last minute rookie- Liam Lawson – stand in for Daniel Ricciardo has managed 2 points in just the last five rounds.
Horner opposed to retaining Yuki
Yet to the surprise of many, at the Japanese Grand Prix Yuki was awarded by Red Bull with another year’s contract driving for the team. He may have been fortunate Ricciardo injured himself in Zandvoort practice and missed the last five F1 events, because had the Aussie been fit and outperformed Yuki from Holland to Qatar the writing would have been surely on the wall for the likeable Japanese driver.
This week TJ13 revealed that Christian Horner was opposed to retaining Tsunoda and only the political clout of Dr. Helmet Marko prevented the parting of the ways. Marko also over ruled Horner when he recruited Nyck de Vries for 2023, something the Austrian was forced to admit he had got wrong and the Red Bull boss was right about.
TJ13 has also reported this week there are moves afoot to retire Dr. Marko who held a position of power for years across the two F1 teams due to his close friendship with the now deceased Dietricht Mateschitz. Christian Horner has teamed up with the Red Bull global marketing director to ensure the matter of Marko’s future is discussed at the up coming board meeting for the energy drinks Group.
In other news, Saudi oil company Aramco are believed to have offered Lawrence Stroll close to $1bn to buy the Aston Martin team. Should Stroll Sir sell it would surely be the end of the underperforming Lance Stroll’s F1 career too.
Open talk of Tsunoda to Aston
This in turn has created speculation that Tsunoda may replace Stroll at Aston Martin and could even drive alongside Fernando as early as 2024. Of course Honda have committed to supplying Aston Martin with power units from 2026 and so this move would make sense given the importance the Japanese car manufacturer holds to having one of their countrymen driving in Formula One.
The Tsunoda to Aston Martin is not secret rumour given Dr. Marko commented on the possibility back in Singapore.
“Tsunoda is under contract with us,” Marko told Sport 1. “If Aston Martin were interested in him next year, they would have to come to an agreement with us first.”
Honda want a Japanese driver
The CEO of the Honda Racing Corporation also hinted they would like Yuki to be partnered with Aston Martin.
“Our goal is to become number one in the world with Aston Martin after 2026, so we don’t want to let go of the pieces necessary to achieve that,” said Koji Wanatabe.
“I hope Tsunoda will grow up and become an essential piece for us by then. And I tell Yuki ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, you can go wherever you can win’.”
Yuki Tsunoda was asked during the Qatar Grand Prix whether he believed Red Bull would consider him as an option to race alongside Max Verstappen.
Tsunoda committed to Red Bull
“I hope so, to be honest,” he replied and went on to say he believed this was a more important option than replacing Stroll at Aston Martin.
“Obviously, the main thing is I don’t want Red Bull to misunderstand something, like for example that I’m just focusing now on Aston Martin or anything [like that].”
“I’m at AlphaTauri, and I’ve been with Red Bull since I was 18 years old. So, I am now focusing to perform for Red Bull, not for Aston Martin,” revealed Tsunoda.
Clearly the rumours linking him with Aston Martin are public knowledge and Yuki clearly would prefer to be considered for the soon to be vacant Red Bull seat when the team finally pull the plug on Perez.
Yuki unhappy with Aston talk
“Hopefully they don’t have misunderstood those things and hopefully they really consider my future seriously,” Yuki added.
“If I perform well as a driver, hopefully they consider me more and obviously, if I didn’t, I understand. But if I’m able to show my performance, I would like to have a bit more kind of rotation.”
Tsunoda wants to avoid his Honda links denying him a Red Bull drive, asserting that the engine manufacturer only wants a Japanese driver thriving in F1. When asked whether the impending tie up between Honda and Aston Martin could affect his chances at Red Bull, Yuki was adamant.
“If that’s the case, I’m not happy with it,” said the Japanese driver. “I don’t know how the conversations are going with Honda [and Red Bull], because Honda is still supplying the engine.
Tsunoda could miss out if Perez returns to Silverstone team
“But I think from the Honda side, what they’re saying is that as long as I can succeed, as long as a Japanese driver can one day achieve success, they don’t care where I go.”
Should Lance Stroll decide he’s had enough, Aston Martin may well believe re-employing Sergio Perez who was successful during his years with the Silverstone based team. Then again Tsunoda if offered the chance may jump at driving alongside the legend that is Fernando Alonso.
The irony of all this would be Red Bull may then need to scrabble around for a second driver for AlphaTauri. With Ricciardo presumably replacing Perez and Lawson stepping up, AplhaTauri would be a driver short for 2024.
Given their new CEO’s stated intention not to run two rookies, it would be fascinating which driver of experience AlphaTauri may try to tempt out of retirement.
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