Yuki Tsunoda believes that he has reached a ‘completely different level’ as he and AlphaTauri look to rebound following a difficult 2022 Formula 1 season.
Tsunoda enters 2023 as AlphaTauri’s most experienced driver following the departure of Pierre Gasly. With two seasons now under his belt, the 22-year-old is already facing pressure from team principal Franz Tost.
AlphaTauri slumped in 2022 managing just 35 points across 22 Grands Prix, 12 of which were contributed by Tsunoda. Despite the unimpressive results, Tsunoda still felt he made a big step forward in his personal development for two reasons.
“Mainly, there were two reasons. The first was my physical development, which I worked on a lot before the season began. That made a big difference to my physical condition in general, meaning that my concentration levels and performance improved in the races.
“The second reason was that my level of confidence returned after I had lost some of it in my first F1 season and that had been my big limitation. I was able to rebuild that confidence little by little and especially in the last three races of 2021, after which I was able to build on that momentum in all the races last year.”
Following the launch of AlphaTauri’s AT04, Tsunoda spoke about the progression he has made with the team since his rookie season in 2021.
“I’m at a completely different level now, although I have still kept the good aspects of my first year,” he said.
“I am definitely more in control and more involved with the team when it comes to the development of the car and I also act differently, having learned lots of things, not just when it comes to racing but also in my life away from the track.
“I had underestimated what was involved, but now I’ve figured out the things that are really important.”
Tsunoda has also made some changes in his preparations for the 2023 season. With Daniel Ricciardo back under the Red Bull umbrella and out of a full-time seat for 2023, Yuki has begun working with Ricciardo’s old coach, Michael Italiano, with whom he went on a training camp in Dubai.
“I was there for two weeks, working on my general fitness and the time was also important to get to know my new coach [Italiano], who used to work with Ricciardo.
“One of the main targets of the camp was to build our relationship so that we understand one another before testing and racing begins. That went well and so did the actual training, where we focused mainly on the endurance side.”
Pierre Gasly’s departure from the team sees Tsunoda lose his effective mentor at AlphaTauri. Tsunoda has inherited the role of being the team’s most experienced driver as Nyck de Vries is set to start his first full F1 campaign.
“Nyck was also training in Dubai, so we got the opportunity to spend a little bit of time together. We knew each other before then from past years,” the Japanese driver added.
“We already have a good relationship, and we will build more on that now as teammates this season. I think together we make a strong pairing, with the aim of helping the team progress this year. I also believe I can learn things from Nyck.”