Yuki Tsunoda: ‘Best Formula 1 rookie of years’ recalls Fernando Alonso’s ’emotional’ fight in Bahrain

Yuki Tsunoda told everyone at his debut F1 weekend in Bahrain – and the 20-year-old Japanese driver spoke to Sky F1 about his race and overtaking his and his father’s hero, Fernando Alonso; Tsunoda was the first driver since 2016 to score points on his debut

Last update: 08/04/21 9:56 am









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Yuki Tsunoda talks to Sky F1 after a great Formula 1 debut in Bahrain, overtaking through the field and finishing in ninth place

Yuki Tsunoda talks to Sky F1 after a great Formula 1 debut in Bahrain, overtaking through the field and finishing in ninth place

Yuki Tsunoda says the “emotional” overtaking of hero Fernando Alonso was the culmination of his Bahrain GP – a refined and engaging debut that led to the young Japanese driver being named “the best F1 rookie of the year”.

After impressing through the junior ranks and the much-lauded Red Bull driver program, Tsunoda, just 20, took to the stage at the opening of the 2021 season in his AlphaTauri car, flirting with the top of the timeline in qualifying before passing from 13. to solid points in a fierce race.

His portrayal, personality and style of attack have led to praise on the paddock, and F1 director Ross Brawn has gone so far as to say: .

“His promotion of Red Bull looks like a great move.”

Tsunoda said he was happy with his first weekend of “50 percent”, saying he was sorry he didn’t qualify for Q3 in qualifying – despite announcing the second fastest time in Q1 – as well as the uncharacteristically timid start that caused him to lose positions.

While Yuki Tsunoda was the 65th driver to score points on his F1 debut, he was the first to do so since Stoffel Vandoorne in 2016. He was also the first Japanese driver to score points since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012.

But he made up for those places during the race, until the last lap when he broke through to the ninth by adding an Aston Martin pass by Lance Stroll.

“Overtaking a lot of cars was a really positive thing,” Tsunoda told Sky Sports F1 after the race.

The passage of a particular double world champion was a special highlight for the young Yuki.

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F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda prestige double world champion with a wonderful arrow inside in Turn One!

F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda prestige double world champion with a wonderful arrow inside in Turn One!

“I became a little emotional when I passed Fernando (Alonso),” he admitted. “The last time I saw him I think it was 12 or 13 years ago and I was seven or eight years old.

“In Turn One, I just believed Fernando’s skills and I just launched him like a beginner!

“I’m a little sorry, it was actually really from afar! So it was emotional. Sure, it’s not the same car, but it was great.”

Extending his admiration for Alonso, who returned to the net in 2021 after a two-year absence from F1, Tsunoda said he learned a lot from just a few laps in a fight with the 39-year-old Spaniard.

“My father is a big fan of Fernando, especially his driving style,” Tsunoda said. “My father likes how he drives – I think he saw him for the first time in a Suzuki and said he was the best driver on the net.

“Of course, I aimed at Fernando and I rode with him a few laps and I learned from him how he steered the tires, how he drives in every turn.

“After I passed him, I tried to copy how he was driving, and a few bends were better for my car as well.

“I hope I don’t have to drive with him next time because I want to be more advanced to begin with, even though Fernando’s situation with cars is different!

“The things I learned from him were very big for the future.”

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