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Formula 1

AlphaTauri’s ‘dreaming on the wrong side’ theory on Tsunoda

by Edd Straw
5 min read

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost believes that Yuki Tsunoda was “dreaming on the wrong side” at times during his first half-season in Formula 1.

Aug 23 : Who must do better in F1 2021's second half

The 21-year-old driver had a difficult start to his F1 career, picking up points only once in his first five races thanks to his ninth place on debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After those first five races, Tsunoda admitted he found the step up to F1 “more difficult than expected”.

Tsunoda has become more consistent since then, scoring points four times in the last six races, but has still been well off team-mate Pierre Gasly.

Partly, this improvement is down to setting more realistic goals having come into F1 expecting to reach Q3 consistently immediately and been guilty of trying to short-cut the process. This is the “dreaming on the wrong side” that Tost references.

“The summer break is good for all of the people to recharge their batteries,” said Tost of the opportunity presented by the summer break to Tsunoda.

“Yuki is a rookie and Formula 1 nowadays is really professional and on a very, very high level.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Budapest, Hungary

“Also, on the technical side it’s a big challenge to be in Formula 1 for the young drivers.

“Just to come from another category into the car thinking you can drive without making any mistakes and will be immediately successful is dreaming on the wrong side.

“To become successful, you have to work very hard and you have to be disciplined.”

While there were concerns within the AlphaTauri team about Tsunoda’s readiness for F1 after his testing runs last year, he impressed with his consistency and pace during Bahrain pre-season testing.

The first setback came in qualifying in Bahrain, where Tsunoda was disappointed to be eliminated in Q2, having set the 13th-fastest time.

He briefly dropped as low as 17th on the opening lap, but drove well in the race to recover to ninth and score points on his debut.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Qualifying Day Imola, Italy

But he didn’t build on that promising start immediately, crashing in Q1 at Imola at Variante Alta on his first flying lap. He admitted that was down to his determination to make it through to Q2 with just one run, and later spoke of the need to modify his objectives to accept that he should not push himself to do that immediately.

That’s the first of three qualifying crashes Tsunoda has had this year. The next came in Baku, which at least came on his final attempt in Q3, but the one that followed in Q1 at Paul Ricard was effectively a repeat of the Imola error.

On top of those offs, he also had practice crashes in Monaco and Hungary that cost him vital track time.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Qualifying Day Paul Ricard, France

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means Tsunoda’s qualifying performances have been unimpressive. He has the worst qualifying record relative to his team-mate of anyone on the grid, having never beaten Gasly, with an average deficit of just over 0.6%. He has at least started to reach Q3 more consistently, doing so three times in the past six races.

His race performances have been a little better, although usually held back by his poor starting positions. He has struggled at times with tyre management, although did deal with that well at Silverstone on his way to 10th place – albeit at a track where that side of things was less demanding.

He also made two identical errors in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, twice crossing the pitlane entry line illegally when coming in for pitstops and earning penalties. It was a strange mistake given this was the second consecutive race at the circuit, although in his defence the team failed to inform him of the first mistake until he was in the pitlane for his second stop, having already cut the line again.

Overall, Tsunoda’s first half-season has been disappointing but there are signs of improvement – and realistic hope he can be a consistent points scorer in the second half of the campaign.

But even in Hungary, there were still signs of impatience that Tost wants to see curbed.

“The young drivers have to learn and we are on a good way with Yuki,” said Tost.

F1 Grand Prix Of Hungary

“He is learning fast and, yeah, sometimes he’s maybe a little bit too motivated. We must not forget he was [at the Hungaroring] the first time with a Formula 1 car. If you look to his laptimes at the beginning of FP1 he was very, very fast and now afterwards he was maybe a little bit too fast.

“I said to him it’s better to be little bit slower in FP1 and to do many laps because every lap helps you to increase your technical understanding and your experience.”

Tsunoda still needs to prove that he can balance up his natural desire to set high standards with the need to avoid mistakes. Too many times this season he has described his performances as “unacceptable” but without showing he had definitely learned from them.

Yuki Tsunoda

But he is an inexperienced driver, one who came into F1 after single seasons in both Formula 3 and Formula 2. He is widely expected to remain with the team next year and needs more time to settle in F1.

However, AlphaTauri does need him to up his points contribution with Tsunoda having scored just 18 compared to team-mate Gasly’s 50 with a best finish of sixth.

It has a car capable of battling with Ferrari and McLaren in qualifying, but lies sixth in the constructors’ championship behind Alpine having not always taken the results the car is capable of despite Gasly’s fine form.

“Yes, not only Yuki, also Pierre has to deliver,” said Tost on the need for Tsunoda to make a healthy points contribution.

“It’s two drivers, two cars are out there and as long as we are in front of Aston Martin and Alpine, then it’s OK, I don’t care which driver is delivering.

“Pierre is doing a fantastic job and he is driving on a very, very high level and he shows the potential of the car.

“I must say that the potential is there to finish fifth in the constructors’ championship.”

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