Yuki Tsunoda claims that Nyck de Vries ‘had the pace’ to compete at AlphaTauri following his dismissal from the team.
Last week, AlphaTauri announced that it had parted ways with de Vries with immediate effect.
De Vries was one of three rookies in the F1 field this year but has a vast CV of racing experience, which includes championship success in Formula 2 and Formula E.
Speaking ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, Tsunoda asserts he enjoyed his time racing alongside the Dutchman.
“I would like to say that I had an enjoyable time over the past ten races with Nyck,” he said.
“I learned from him, and we also had a good time away from the track.
“He had plenty of experience in other categories and gave the team good feedback based on his knowledge. He had the pace and, as a friend, I enjoyed my time with him.”
Replacing the 28-year-old is F1 veteran Daniel Ricciardo, who returns to the grid after parting ways with McLaren at the end of 2022.
“I’m looking forward to working with Daniel,” Tsunoda added. “I can’t say I know him very well, but we had a fun day filming together earlier this year in Miami.
“I think I’ll benefit from having a very good, experienced driver as a team-mate.
“I’m sure I can learn lots of things from him and I also expect he will be able to bring something to the team and move the car development forward.”
AlphaTauri currently sits at the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship, with Tsunoda scoring its only two points of the year to date.
However, the Japanese driver is confident that he can add to his tally at the Hungaroring this weekend.
“We have more upgrades for the race in Hungary, on top of those we brought to the last race,” he said.
“Budapest has completely different track characteristics compared to the past two races, and its slow-speed corners should suit our car better than the high-speed ones.
“I like the track, it’s technical and challenging, and good fun. I have nice memories from my first F1 race there in 2021 as it was very chaotic and I finished sixth, after starting 16th!
“I’m optimistic, I always treat every race as a new opportunity where anything can happen. As a team, we’re very motivated to go forward and develop the car as much as possible.
“In my mind, I’ve had a complete reset from the last few races, especially Silverstone, and I’m in a positive frame of mind.”