until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Tsunoda gets AlphaTauri F1 seat, replaces Kvyat

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Yuki Tsunoda will race for AlphaTauri in Formula 1 next season after Red Bull finally confirmed its Honda-affiliated protege will replace Daniil Kvyat.

Tsunoda finished third in the Formula 2 championship this year as a rookie, just one point behind Callum Ilott and 15 being champion Mick Schumacher – both of whom were in their second seasons.

He drove a 2018 Toro Rosso at Imola last month and for AlphaTauri in the post-season Abu Dhabi young driver test, where he completed 123 laps and set the fifth-fastest time.

That gave him an important familiarisation with the increased power and downforce even compared to the 2018 car, and acts as a headstart for a short pre-season programme next year, when testing will take place over just three days before the first race.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Abu Dhabi, Uae

Tsunoda will be the 18th Japanese driver to race in F1 and the first since Kamui Kobayashi drove for Caterham in 2014.

He is also Honda’s first protege to break through from F2, succeeding whether Nobuharu Matsushita, Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino failed.

“Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team,” AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost said. “Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding.

“During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback. In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps.

“At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, F1

Tsunoda’s progress has been rapid as he was only racing in Japan as recently as 2018.

He started competing in Europe last year, dovetailing a race-winning Formula 3 campaign with the unfancied Jenzer team with a season driving traditional F3 cars in Euroformula Open.

An immediate graduation to F2 followed and Tsunoda took many by surprise with how quickly he adapted, scoring four pole positions and three wins in his rookie season.

“Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in Formula 1, so I am very happy with this news,” Tsunoda said. “I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr. [Helmut] Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe.

“I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year. I realise that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them too.”

Motor Racing Fia Formula 2 Championship Friday Barcelona, Spain

The significance of getting a driver to F1 is huge for Honda, which owns Suzuka – home of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Local support from the Honda-powered cars has been fierce since the manufacturer rejoined F1 in 2015 and was intensified last year simply with the appearance of Honda’s Super GT and Super Formula star Naoki Yamamoto in Friday practice.

Masashi Yamamoto, Honda’s F1 managing director, told The Race last weekend: “We’ve been doing a young driver programme for a long time, supporting young drivers to develop.

“It is really a big pleasure there is a possibility we have a Japanese driver in the future on the grid. We’d really love to see it if possible.

“Listening to Japan, it sounds like many fans and media are excited and waiting for the announcement because they are seeing the possibility of having a Japanese driver.

“If we can have him in on the grid it is going to be the second driver from the Suzuka Racing School, our programme, so we are really excited.”

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