Yuki Tsunoda believes his quick progression through the junior categories has helped in adapting to Formula 1 machinery amid the relative lack of pre-season testing.
Tsunoda took the Japanese Formula 4 title in 2018 and spent only a year apiece in Formula 3 and Formula 2 – where track time is limited – before being signed by AlphaTauri.
Tsunoda therefore steps up to Formula 1 having raced across the FIA’s four levels of the single-seater pyramid in as many years.
But rather than lament the lack of available track time Tsunoda believes it has enabled him to be more efficient in understanding the nuances of different cars.
“Two years ago it was the first time I came to Europe, for Formula 3, so most of the tracks were first time for me, the Formula 1 tracks,” said Tsunoda, who was second-fastest in winter testing.
“There was just one free practice and then it was straight into qualifying, you have to perform well and then try to get some points in the race.
“At the beginning of the season in Formula 3 I struggled a bit to adapt to the tracks as soon as possible and couldn’t focus as much on the car set-up and also on my driving style.
“But that hard situation made it better for adapting well to Formula 2, that experience was really useful.
“Also these two years, Formula 3, Formula 2, adapting to the cars, the experience, have been really useful for my move to Formula 1, especially for the beginning of the season, so definitely that helps.”
Tsunoda will be Formula 1’s first Japanese representative since 2014, when Kamui Kobayashi raced for Caterham, and he says he has been buoyed by the support he has received back home.
“I’ve been getting a lot of messages from Japanese fans, especially through social media,” he said.
“I already know how they are reacting to me being in Formula 1, especially as there was no Japanese driver in Formula 1 for the last seven years.
“They’re definitively excited, I’m excited as well, so I’m especially looking forward to get to Suzuka this year, to drive in front of the Japanese fans.”