Rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda is ready to represent the Japanese flag on the FIA Formula One World Championship grid once again as he embarks on his first full season in the sport.
He will become the first Japanese international to race in Formula One since 2014 when Kamui Kobayashi competed for Caterham Renault.
Tsunoda knows their will be slight pressure from Japanese fans heading into this season, but is ready to proudly represent his nation on the F1 grid for the first time since 2014.
“My team-mate is very fast and experienced, and I plan to learn as much as possible from him. I am the first Japanese driver to race in Formula 1 since 2014 and I know a lot is expected of me from the Japanese fans, so I will be trying my best to make them happy. I think I’m ready!”
Tsunoda only spent one-year in Formula Two, finishing third in the championship with 200 points, while his impressive performances convinced Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda hierarchy to give the 20-year-old Daniil Kyvat’s seat for 2021.
The rookie driver has gained plenty of experience in an F1 car over the last few months, include driving older cars around Imola and completing three-day pre-season testing in Bahrain earlier this month.
He went on to finish second fastest overall across all three days, only one-hundredth of a second behind Max Verstappen, and completed 185 laps to gain more valuable experience behind the wheel of the AT02.
Tsunoda knows it will be a big step-up to Formula One from Formula Two but feels well prepared ahead of making his debut in the season opener in Bahrain this weekend.
“Making my Formula 1 debut this weekend in Bahrain is going to be a big step up from Formula 2. During the off-season, I was able to drive some older F1 cars and then we had the three-day test at Sakhir, so with all of that combined I feel I am well prepared.” Tsunoda said.
“There has been a lot to learn, in terms of the power of the car, how effective the brakes are and, especially unique to Formula 1, how many controls and switches there are on the steering wheel. During the test, I worked on understanding how the car reacts to all the changes that can be made to it, I spent a lot of time studying the data and I feel I have made some progress.
“Comparing this year’s car to last year’s, I had a good feeling through the steering and the engine seems to have more power, but although testing went well, we won’t know how competitive we are until this weekend, because in testing, everyone is running different programmes.”
The 20-year-old has certainly progressed through the junior series at incredibly speeds, starting racing just at the age of 16 before spending two years in Japanese Formula Four, finishing third in the national championship then claiming the title a year later.
He moved into Formula Three in 2019 and went on secure three podiums and one win to finish ninth in the championship, which prompted Carlin Racing to sign him for Formula Two in 2020, later going onto win three races and seven podiums to finish third in the standings.
Despite being one of three rookie drivers on the grid this season, Tsunoda is looking to ‘push hard from the start’ and aims for better results mid-way through the campaign.
“I have also worked hard on my physical preparation, training every day and focusing on those areas where I saw I needed to be stronger. I am keen to see what happens in this first race. My approach to the season will be to push hard right from the start, building on my experience to find the limits of the car and I hope that, by the mid-season, it all comes together with some good results.