Of the three Formula 1 rookies ready to compete in the 2021 season, Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda is perhaps the hungriest of all. With bucket loads of talent and ambitions to become the first of his countrymen to win a grand prix, the twenty-year-old certainly has high hopes for his first year in F1.
Now confirmed to race alongside Frenchman Pierre Gasly at Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 Team, the youngster is set to become the twenty-first driver from Japan to enter a world championship race at the pinnacle of motorsport.
His career at the top of single-seaters- whilst being incredibly short- shows spectacular ability and promise, as the rookie has graduated from almost every previous open-wheel series in his first year of competition.
Just last year, Tsunoda took part in his maiden season of FIA Formula 2– fighting against the likes of established racers and talents such as Mick Schumacher, Luca Ghiotto and Guanyu Zhou.
In a display of remarkable ability, the Japanese driver claimed an outstanding third in the championship, prompting Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri to contact him for a 2021 F1 drive in the latter team.
Speaking about his rather quick rise through the junior ranks, Tsunoda appreciated that his inaugural year was a whirlwind one, but admitted that ‘some luck’ was in play to make his ‘dream come true.’
“To reach Formula 1- which was my final goal as a driver – you don’t just have to deliver results, you also need luck, and this is something you can’t control. So, from my side, I knew I always had to give my best at all times.” Tsunoda divulged.
“It was in my hands to stand out and impress the bosses, who can make your dream come true. In every series, you need to develop a strong pace very quickly, so I was committed to doing well right from the start of my career. It was good to show what I could achieve in my inaugural year in F2 and I’m so happy to have graduated to F1 so quickly.”
Tsunoda referred to F2 as ‘a good warm-up for F1’, but said he ‘can’t wait’ to race in the big league. The proud Japanese national is ‘particularly excited’ to race at Suzuka (his home track) where he has only competed once in Formula 4.
“I’m really excited to get started and am particularly looking forward to racing in Suzuka, in front of the Japanese fans, and I’m really excited to now get the opportunity to represent my country in F1.
“I am also looking forward to visiting many new countries and racing on different tracks. If I had to pick one of the circuits I’m most looking forward to, apart from Japan, it would be Monaco – there is so much history there and it’s a very challenging circuit.”
When asked about his goals for the season, Tsunoda stated that he wants to ‘do the best he can’ and ‘see how the season plays out’. He has aspirations to challenge team-mate Gasly from the get-go, but acknowledges that the newly-crowned F1 race-winner will be a tricky one to beat.
“My main goal for this season is to learn quickly and deliver results as soon as possible. I must always do the best I can and then we will see how the season plays out.
“The first target for every driver is to beat your team-mate but [ Pierre ] will be a hard one to beat. I remember seeing him in Japan when he was racing in Super Formula and I was in Formula 4. He nearly got the title in his first year in Japan which is really difficult, especially for a European driver. He’s an incredible talent and I’m excited to learn everything I can from him this season, as I’ve already seen how integrated he is within the team.“
As for his overall aims in F1? Tsunoda has his eyes on one thing: The top step of the podium. Having come from a country that has never seen its driver win a race, the youngster is hoping to be the first one to break the win-drought for Japan.
“I just want to beat the other drivers and I also want to be the first Japanese driver to win a race in Formula 1. My main goal this season is to do well, for the team, for myself and certainly for Honda.”