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Formula 1

Tsunoda's Ricciardo order rage was needlessly self-defeating

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Yuki Tsunoda's rage at RB team orders in the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix is going to do absolutely nothing to convince the senior Red Bull Formula 1 team and others to take him more seriously as a potential future driver.

All the talk of Max Verstappen's 2025 team-mate has been a battle between Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo, or Red Bull turning to an outside option like Alex Albon or Carlos Sainz, rather than now fourth-year second team driver Tsunoda.

Some would suggest that's harsh given Tsunoda led AlphaTauri well when rookie Nyck de Vries faltered last year and then compared strongly to his experienced new team-mate Ricciardo and star stand-in Liam Lawson.

But regardless, the way Tsunoda handled RB instructing him to allow Ricciardo through into 13th place in the Bahrain GP was badly misjudged.

Tsunoda's sarcastic response to his team ("yeah thanks guys, I appreciate it") and consistent questioning after Ricciardo had already gone through ("he's not fast at all") is not in the spirit of his efforts to show he's more mature as a driver now than during his early expletive-filled early years with the team.

That's not to say a driver can't be unhappy with team orders, it's difficult to find a driver on the grid who hasn't been irate about a team order.

But it's both the frequency of Tsunoda losing his cool and what Tsunoda did after the race that shows a real lack of the maturity Red Bull and other teams will be looking for.

Having seen Ricciardo fail to pass Kevin Magnussen in front of him during the race, on the cooldown lap back to the pits, Tsunoda quickly accelerated past Ricciardo on the run to the Turn 8 hairpin, locking up and going wide, before cutting around the outside of Ricciardo, almost resulting in a collision.

"What the f***...I'll save it...he's a f***ing helmet," came a surprised Ricciardo's response, having been mid-debrief to his engineer when it happened.

Tsunoda’s frustration did cool after the race, when he said he expected to be let back through on the final lap and added that he has to "understand what they were thinking, so far I don't understand".

And Ricciardo's 'I won't comment but I will say..' continued after the race, as he gave Tsunoda the benefit of the doubt.

"No, I'll let him cool down," when asked if he'd spoken to Tsunoda in parc ferme.

"We know what he's like; he's obviously during the moment he's very...that's Yuki.

“But I think once we get back to the room he'll be completely fine.“I'm OK; of course, again, I'm thinking long-term.

"This is a long season, so we need to be able to work together, so I'm not going to come in there with an angry attitude. It's just we have to be very honest and realistic that it should've happened when they called it."

That's the kind of measured response RB will have been looking for. Frustration? Yes. But tempered with a realisation that the team will only be making decisions it believes are in the best interest of the team.

And after all their squabble was over 13th and 14th place. Nothing warrants an over-aggressive cooldown re-pass but losing 13th place to your team-mate certainly doesn't.

The people who matter to Tsunoda's career, Red Bull and any potential future F1 employer, are looking close enough to know that team orders and his race strategy left Tsunoda fighting for those positions. Finishing just in front of or just behind Ricciardo in that situation wasn’t going to change anything for perceptions of him. Reacting as he did has far greater scope to.

What makes it all worse is that Tsunoda was having a really strong start to 2024.

Having outqualified Ricciardo and come within a fraction of sneaking into Q3, Tsunoda was potentially on for a point with a better strategy. Instead he was undercut twice by those around him and had inferior tyres to Ricciardo in the final stint.

There was at least a mature admission amongst Tsunoda's post-race team order angst: "Probably one reason the strategy is not working that I could improve myself is that I can keep up [more] updates on the tyre situation, so they can adjust more precisely."

The poor strategy - not Tsunoda’s driving - enabled the mess that left him so frustrated. But how he responded was still unnecessary, particularly at an event when he was the stronger performing RB driver. And also at a time when RB has a new management line-up to impress. These antics are likely to get a blunt reception from veteran new racing director Alan Permane, for instance.

Red Bull isn't short of 2025 driver options for its first or second teams, so any repeats of this messy response will just add another unwanted asterisk when Red Bull - and the likes of soon-to-be-Honda-powered Aston Martin - weigh up their future driver line-ups. 

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