Tost has Tsunoda primed for key Imola test

Jon Wilde
Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda's career turning point was Anthoine Hubert's fatal crash in 2019.

AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost is leaving nothing to chance for Yuki Tsunoda’s test at Imola on Wednesday which is likely to be his next step towards a 2021 F1 race seat.

Tsunoda looks set to take Daniil Kvyat’s place as Pierre Gasly’s team-mate at AlphaTauri next year, provided he can fulfil the obligations required to obtain a super-licence.

The first part is to complete a 300km test in a 2018 Toro Rosso – as AlphaTauri used to be known – around the circuit that staged the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

That distance will enable Tsunoda, who races in Formula 2 and is a member of the Red Bull driver development programme, to gain a licence that allows him to take part in an FP1 session at one of the final three F1 races of the season in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

Such an appearance, or even two, for AlphaTauri could be key in the 20-year-old Japanese racer’s quest to obtain an FIA super-licence – which he would gain automatically if he finishes in the top four of the F2 Championship.

Tsunoda is currently third in the standings with four races in Bahrain remaining, but three other drivers are within seven points of him.

Tost insisted he is ensuring Tsunoda receives the best possible preparation for his Imola outing, which will see him cover a distance around the same as Sunday’s race at the track in which Kvyat, his rival for a race seat next year, finished fourth behind winner Lewis Hamilton.

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“Yuki Tsunoda has to get used to the F1 car, it’s his first outing in an F1 car. Imola is not an easy track. I will instruct him in the best possible way what to do,” said Tost, quoted by Motorsport Week.

“We want to do a 300km run with him from the FIA to do eventually an FP1 in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi. We will see if it is necessary. It depends where he ends up in the F2 championship.

“If he is in the first four, he gets the super-licence and if he is fifth, maybe he needs two FP1s as there you get a point as well.”

Tost added that Tsunoda’s short-term future hinges entirely on his performance, affirming that Red Bull are not in a rush to confirm who will take the second seat at AlphaTauri next year.

“I think the decision will be made soon,” said Tost. “[But] we are not in a hurry.

“It depends also I think where Yuki Tsunoda ends in the championship, it’s a very important factor.

“It’s on his performance, nothing to do with any sponsors. This was never the case, neither at Toro Rosso or AlphaTauri.

“We must be convinced the driver has the necessary ability and skills to drive successfully in Formula 1 because although we are the so-called ‘sister’ team, our ‘brother’ expects good drivers from us.”

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