The decision on who will occupy the second race seat at AlphaTauri alongside Pierre Gasly in 2021 is set to be made soon, according to its team principal Franz Tost.
Yuki Tsunoda, who is currently racing in Formula 2 as part of Red Bull’s junior programme, is a front-runner for the drive.
The Japanese driver will test the Toro Rosso STR13 at Imola on Wednesday in preparation for a potential full-time seat next year, and he may also receive an FP1 outing later this season.
In order to qualify for an automatic Super Licence, Tsunoda must finish fourth in the F2 standings – he’s currently third, but faces close competition behind, sitting just seven points in front of Nikita Mazepin in sixth.
“Yuki Tsunoda has to get used to the F1 car, it’s his first outing in an F1 car, Imola is not an easy track, I will instruct him in the best possible way what to do,” Tost said of his upcoming test.
“We want to do a 300km run with him from the FIA to do eventually an FP1 in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, we will see if it is necessary, it depends where he ends up in the F2 championship.
“If he is in the first four he gets the Super Licence and if he is fifth, maybe he needs two FP1s as there you get a point as well.”
Tost added that Tsunoda’s fate rests entirely on his performance, affirming that Red Bull is not in a hurry to confirm who will take the second seat at its sister team next year.
“I think the decision will be made soon,” Tost said. “[But] we are not in a hurry.
“It depends also I think where Yuki Tsunoda ends in the championship, it’s a very important factor.
“It is on his performance, nothing to do with any sponsors, this was never the case, neither at Toro Rosso or AlphaTauri.
“We must be convinced that the driver has the necessary ability and skills to drive successfully in Formula 1, because although we are the so called sister team our brother expects good drivers from us.”