‘Underrated’ F1 driver told to follow Fernando Alonso and ditch overcritical approach

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso with his hand raised as he speaks with team members on the grid in Qatar.

Fernando Alonso: His own best hype man

1996 World Champion Damon Hill believes Yuki Tsunoda should look to a driver like Fernando Alonso as inspiration not to be so open about any of his “failings”.

Tsunoda is now into the third season of his Formula 1 and AlphaTauri career, the Japanese racer proving one of few consistencies in a challenging F1 2023 campaign for Red Bull’s junior team, having had Nyck de Vries, Liam Lawson and Daniel Ricciardo as a team-mate at different stages of the season.

Tsunoda has scored eight of AlphaTauri’s current tally of 10 points, P8 last time out at the United States Grand Prix his best result of the season, while he also claimed the fastest lap bonus point.

Yuki Tsunoda “underrated” but carries “counterproductive” pressure

As the only Japanese racer on the F1 grid, Tim Mayer, chairman of the FIA stewards, believes this weighs on the 23-year-old, Tsunoda known for his fiery outbursts over team radio which AlphaTauri has tried to tame over his tenure.

However, he also sees Tsunoda as an “underrated” competitor, with the US Grand Prix serving as an example of what he can produce when it all comes together, Tsunoda having had the beating of his returning team-mate, eight-time race winner Ricciardo.

“I think that Yuki is an underrated driver,” said Mayer on the F1 Nation podcast. “He has the weight of the whole nation on top of him, he really does.

“He feels that pressure, you can see it on a race weekend that he does feel the pressure, he feels the need to deliver. And that pressure I think is counterproductive. And you do see some up and down weekends from him.

“So it’s great to see a consistent weekend from him, one where he’s able to concentrate and deliver and he really is the real thing when he gets it right.”

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Yuki Tsunoda should take a page from Fernando Alonso’s book

Hill was in agreement with Mayer, adding that Tsunoda’s drawback can be his willingness to be harsh on himself in public.

In that sense, he says Tsunoda should observe Aston Martin’s two-time World Champion Alonso, Formula 1’s most experienced racer, for inspiration of how to “put a little bit of protective” around himself when it comes to any “failings”.

“I agree with Tim, he’s a little bit too hard on himself,” said Hill.

“His pace is there, his pace is good, but it’s that kind of suggestion that he himself doesn’t think he’s good enough or that’s how it comes across.

“And I don’t know how you change that attitude, he’s very open and honest about his failings and sometimes you want to go, ‘Look, I don’t think Fernando Alonso, even if he had any failings, will be admitting to any of them’.

“And sometimes you do need to kind of just put a little bit of protective all around yourself, rather than opening yourself up to criticism.”

Tsunoda has been confirmed for a fourth campaign with Red Bull’s junior team in F1 2024, where he will be partnered by Ricciardo.

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