Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Yuki Tsunoda: Recent Improvements ‘Down to How Hard Everyone is Working’

Yuki Tsunoda is targeting points this weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix, after a penalty at the Spanish Grand Prix saw a top ten finish slip through his finger tips.

Tsunoda’s significant improvement this season in the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship has so far been one of the stories of the season, with the Japanese driver having somewhat become Scuderia AlphaTauri‘s leader. He is responsible for all of the Faenza-based team’s points this season, and would’ve added to their tally had it not been for a questionable five-second time penalty.

The Japanese driver finished the Spanish GP in ninth but was demoted to twelfth, once the time penalty was added. Tsunoda was awarded the penalty for being judged to have forced Zhou Guanyu off the circuit, at the first corner. It was a debatable decision which left Tsunoda empty-handed, on a weekend where the driver put the team’s strong performance down to “how hard everyone is working”.

“It was frustrating not to score points because of the penalty in Spain, but putting that to one side, I can say we were consistent and I was really happy with the way we worked. The team did a good job, especially with the strategy for Sunday, and also for qualifying I got a lot of help from my engineers and the team.

“We are working well together, but more than that, the team itself has improved and everyone is pulling in the same direction. Even though we know we are struggling a bit this season, we have achieved good results in the races, and that is down to how hard everyone is working.”

Looking ahead to this weekend at the Circuit de Gilles-Villeneuve, Tsunoda is looking forward to returning to what was a significant venue for him last season. Remarkably, the balance setup that the AlphaTauri driver discovered in Montreal last season is still what he uses today. Tsunoda didn’t actually finish last season’s race but is nevertheless entering the weekend with a sense of belief.

“The Canadian track is difficult and enjoyable to drive, and the atmosphere is amazing,” said Tsunoda. “It’s a street circuit, but feels more like an old-style permanent racetrack, a bit like Suzuka, where as soon as you step outside the white line, you end up on the grass. It’s tricky in terms of setup as you need low drag and high downforce. In fact, I remember the Canada race last year was a bit of a turning point in my understanding of the car.

“I struggled a lot in free practice, but I was able to come back much stronger in the race. Together with the engineers, we were able to understand which direction to take, to make both the car and me faster. That balance setup we found in Montreal is still what we use now. The Sim last week confirmed that and I’m happy with the work we did in fine-tuning the setup. I hope it works out.”

“It’s difficult to predict how we will get on” – Nyck de Vries

Credit: Peter Fox/ Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

On the other side of the AlphaTauri garage, rookie Nyck de Vries heads to Canada having finished fourteenth in Spain, a venue where in his eyes he “showed a strong performance”. De Vries has certainly made progress over recent rounds; however, he remains point-less this season.

Reflecting on the Spanish GP, De Vries believes that a “clear upward trend” is starting to show in the team’s performances, to the extent where the Dutchman thinks the outfit are “getting closer to the top ten”.

“I think the last two races were very positive: Monaco was a solid, clean weekend and over the whole Barcelona event, we showed a strong performance. It was a shame I ran out of new tyres for Q2 because I’d have had a good shot at qualifying better, but these things can happen in tricky circumstances.

“In the race, I had a good start, but my inside line was compromised by two other cars losing time together. There is still room for improvement, but I can definitely see we have good potential, so I’m continuing to focus on progressing and working the way I have recently been doing.

“The team has done a great job over the last few races, and I can see a clear upward trend as we are getting closer to the top ten. They have put in a lot of time, work and effort into better development of the car and bringing that to the track. It has definitely paid off in terms of competitiveness. Having said that, the midfield is so tight, I don’t think you can always purely judge the development success on the final result, as you need more than performance to get a result in that midfield group.”

Whilst De Vries hasn’t raced at this weekend’s venue, he was in attendance at last season’s Canadian GP, having been the reserve driver for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. It’s a circuit which will punish even the smallest of errors due to its interesting mix of high-speed straights and low-speed corners, with it also boasting “its own special character”

Due to how tight the midfield has been this season, the Dutch driver is unsure how well the team will perform, especially due to how big a factor track evolution plays.

“I was in Canada for the race last year so I’ve seen this unusual track before, a mixture of permanent and street circuit, but this weekend will be the first time I actually race there. It’s a very particular track: when you just look at the map, it seems like a simple layout but it’s quite tricky. While most of the circuits we race on are all merging towards the same safety standards, run-off areas, kerbs and even the infrastructure, Canada is a track that is still unique and has its own special character.

“I worked on it in the simulator last week, but it’s difficult to predict how we will get on because, as I said before, the midfield is so tight. The track presents interesting questions in terms of car setup but I’m learning that in Formula 1, although everything seems to happen quickly, the weekend is actually long. In saying that, you really have to turn up and be competitive immediately, continuing to progress throughout the weekend while conditions and circumstances are continuously changing.

“In qualifying there is often an even higher evolution and ramp-up so it’s a constantly moving target. I’m looking forward to returning to Montreal as it’s a great city, in my mind a mixture between North America and Europe, specifically France of course with the language. It has a great buzz and the fans are very welcoming.”