SportF1Is Tsunoda capable of leading AlphaTauri in F1 if...

Is Tsunoda capable of leading AlphaTauri in F1 if Gasly leaves?

The director of the AlphaTauri team, Franz Tost , had been assuring for some time that the plan was to continue with Tsunoda together with Gasly -which he renewed in June- waiting for Red Bull to give him the go-ahead.

Yuki Tsunoda said a few weeks ago that his future depended on “substantial things”, but that he was satisfied with his performances even if this year’s results do not reflect his performance. The 22-year-old has not scored a point since the Spanish GP, although it is true that AlphaTauri has had more problems to be in the upper part of the middle zone than in 2021.

Currently, the couple Tsunoda and Gasly have a contract for next year, but that could change. Alpine has Gasly at the top of their list of contenders for his second seat, and Red Bull Racing is willing to release him as long as he can find a good replacement.

Red Bull had to give up the plan to bring IndyCar driver Colton Herta on board when the FIA refused to budge on its superlicence rules, which seemed to mean Gasly would stay. However, after it was learned that Helmut Marko , the energy drink adviser, met with Nyck de Vries last weekend, it is clear that options are still being analyzed to replace Gasly and allow him to go to Alpine.

Should Pierre Gasly depart, Tsunoda would be the experienced man and leader of the AlphaTauri team going into 2023, a great role for a driver who often makes headlines for his temperament and is clearly not yet at prime.

Tsunoda admits that he may have a hard time playing the same role as Gasly at first.

“I would not expect to be able to perform immediately or give the information to the team immediately like Pierre,” he said in Zandvoort , at the last Dutch GP.

“But currently I’m learning as much as possible from him. Still, there’s a lot I can learn from him. Currently, we approach it the same way, we just try to develop the car as much as possible, to have a more consistent pace throughout. throughout Grand Prix week.

Tsunoda’s development has come a long way, especially since Red Bull made him move to Italy in the middle of last season to keep him closer to the team. It was such a significant move that it was even mentioned in AlphaTauri’s press release announcing him for 2023, highlighting his progression since then.

Faenza has provided a good working environment for Tsunoda to work. AlphaTauri is a small team without the pressure of a Red Bull or another top team. It has a boss, Franz Tost, who knows how to get the best out of young drivers. And in Gasly he has had a teammate who has not only helped him improve his level, but has also forged a friendly relationship off the track.

“He probably took Formula 1 a bit more seriously, which was the right way to approach it,” Pierre Gasly told in an interview before the summer break.

“From what he says, I had an impact on that side, which showed him the kind of dedication and commitment that this sport requires. This year we’ve worked as a team, whereas last year I was a bit divided, because I didn’t have a lot of experience. I was still pretty new to this sport.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

“This year I think he has clear ideas and clearer feedback on what we really need to go faster, so we can work together to improve the car we have.”

It’s a progression that AlphaTauri technical director Jody Egginton has also noted. “Now that he’s understanding things, he’s doing more,” he said of Tsunoda. “He’s also getting better opinions about what he wants in the car. And that takes time, with any driver.”

We have already seen glimpses of what he can do in Formula 1. His impressive debut in Bahrain last year and fourth place at the Abu Dhabi GP to close out 2021 may be big results, but his performances have taken him a step forward in 2022, although that is not reflected in the total points.

Imola (this year’s Emilia Romagna GP) is a weekend that goes unnoticed, but he climbed from 16th on the grid to seventh place on a track where overtaking is very difficult. The points gap with Gasly has also narrowed compared to last year. Gasly has 22 points to Tsunoda’s 11, but Yuki reckons the difference would be less had there been no setbacks like Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan .

The big challenge for Tsunoda will be turning his potential into the kind of skills that could help him lead a team if Gasly were to leave. He has won a worldwide following for his honest character – as Gasly puts it, “whatever comes into his head comes out of his mouth a split second later” – but stepping up to AlphaTauri would be a test. key to seeing what the long-term future holds for him within the Red Bull structure.

Tost said in the press release confirming to Tsunoda for 2023 that he believes drivers need three years to fully acclimatize to life in F1. That will mean that next season there will be no more excuses for Tsunoda not to take advantage of the undeniable talent that he has, but…as a team leader?

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