Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda had an oriental feel during Tuesday’s test in Abu Dhabi as Marino Sato and Yuki Tsunoda shared driving duties at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Sato was given his first opportunity to run in Formula 1 machinery, with the 2019 EuroFormula Open champion completing one-hundred and twenty-seven laps.
The twenty-one-year-old, who’s future in FIA Formula 2 is unclear for 2021 after spending 2020 racing with Trident, said it was a shame his soft tyre run was affected by traffic, but overall it was a positive day of testing for the Japanese racer.
“First of all, thank you to everyone in Scuderia AlphaTauri for the opportunity I had today to drive an F1 car for the very first time,” said Sato. “We completed quite a lot of laps, it’s just a shame that I got stuck in bit of traffic for my run on the soft compound.
“It was looking good until then, but I can’t say I could fully give it all I had today. But still, the first day in a Formula 1 car was really enjoyable and a great experience, so I hope to come back to drive this car again soon.”
Sato was joined on track by fellow Japanese racer Tsunoda, who will move into a race seat with AlphaTauri in 2021 having been announced to replace Daniil Kvyat. He completed one-hundred and twenty-three laps as he continued adapting to life in Formula 1 having raced to third place in Formula 2 in 2020.
It was the second opportunity for Tsunoda to drive a Formula 1 car, although it was the first time to run in 2020 machinery having run previously in a 2018 Toro Rosso at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in November.
Tsunoda will now head into the off-season to begin in earnest his preparations for the 2021 season, which will see twenty-three races between March and December, a record for a single Formula 1 year.
“I had more track time today than when I tried a Formula 1 car for the first time in November and I must admit I feel a bit tired now at the end of the day,” said Tsunoda. “But it was a very enjoyable experience.
“When I last drove in Imola it was a 2018 car, so I was surprised at the increase in power and downforce from the current car. However, the experience from my drive in Imola was definitely a useful starting point for today.
“There were quite a few aspects that felt new to me and during the session I worked on dealing with these and continuously improving throughout the day. I learned a lot and have made progress with my driving.
“The off-season starts tomorrow, and I have a training programme planned to make sure I am always stronger and fitter, but I will also enjoy some days at home in Japan, to fully recharge batteries.”
“Yuki did a great job while giving us very good technical feedback” – Franz Tost
Franz Tost, the Team Principal at AlphaTauri, said it was a ‘successful’ test to end a busy year for everyone involved with the team, even though they were unable to make any set-up chances throughout the day in Abu Dhabi.
Tost was happy to see Tsunoda testing ahead of his planned debut in Formula 1 in 2021, particularly with the reduced pre-season testing schedule, while he was also delighted with the feedback his new driver gave to the team.
He was also happy with the performance of Sato, and he gave big praise to the twenty-one-year-old’s work ethic, and he feels he has a future in motorsport if he continues as he did on Tuesday.
“It was a very successful test today,” said Tost on Tuesday. “We completed 250 laps with the two cars and it was quite a good lesson for both the drivers.
“They could experience the preparation, which is required for such an event, like the FIA jump test, which they both passed without problems, and they could learn what it means having to work with a lot more engineers than what they were used to.
“During the test we were not allowed to do set up changes, but they could certainly learn the car and compare different tyre compounds as we tested both Primes and Options. Especially here in Abu Dhabi, it’s important for the driver to understand how to use the tyres not to overheat them and to get the correct temperature.
“Yuki had already tested an F1 car in Imola back in November, but this time he could drive the current-spec car, and for Marino, it was his first time in F1. Yuki did a great job while giving us very good technical feedback, and his cooperation with the engineers has been really beneficial.
“Marino also did a solid job, he completed many laps, learning the car and how an F1 team works. If he continues like this, I think he has a future in motorsport. Today we had a very fruitful test, a good end to a successful 2020 season.”
Tost concluded by thanking everyone within the team and at engine suppliers Honda for a fantastic season, which saw AlphaTauri finish seventh in the Constructors’ Championship and take an emotional victory in the Italian Grand Prix with Pierre Gasly.
“I would like to thank all the team members, at the track and in the operation room, in Faenza and Bicester, and last but not least, Honda, for their fantastic support and their very powerful and reliable PU,” said Tost. “Everyone has done their part to achieve the best season ever in our history.”