F1 pundit Tom Clarkson has pondered whether being in the same team as Pierre Gasly was a “distraction” for Yuki Tsunoda.
The experienced Gasly had the beating of his young team-mate with the Frenchman finishing ahead of Tsunoda on 30 occasions during their two years together.
Such was Gasly’s dominance that many expected rookie Nyck de Vries to become de-facto team leader at AlphaTauri following the Frenchman’s departure to Alpine, but the reverse has happened with Tsunoda stepping up his performance while De Vries is the joint-worst performing driver on the grid.
It is for that reason then that Clarkson has debated whether no longer being compared to Gasly has helped the 23-year-old Tsunoda grow as a driver.
“I’m a massive fan of Yuki Tsunoda,” Clarkson said on the F1 Nation podcast. “I think he is evolving into a brilliant racing driver and a character. But I also think I feel that there’s more purpose to Yuki this year, it’s like he’s reset over the winter.
“[Was] Pierre Gasly a distraction? I just sort of feel that Yuki has grown as a professional sportsman this year.
“It’s like he set himself some goals. He’s no longer just happy to be in Formula 1, he now wants to achieve something in Formula 1 and I think he’s grown as a person and as a racing driver.”
Tsunoda may only have two points to his name so far this season but that does not tell the full story. The Japanese driver has finished 11th on three occasions and a harsh penalty during the Spanish Grand Prix denied him another points-scoring race.
While Tsunoda is enjoying a good season, he has admitted he would be open to leaving the Red Bull family should another top team want him.
“I think Checo has a contract [to the end of] next year, and I guess Red Bull are happy with him,” Tsunoda told GIVEMESPORT. “So, for now, I just have to focus on myself and show my value. I think time will tell anyway. I think it’s good to actually stay for now at AlphaTauri and show my performance to all the teams.
“It’s good to have more attention not just from Red Bull. I don’t get to choose what team I want to go to or what things I want to do in Formula 1 yet, I think Red Bull will still get to choose, so I want to get to a point as a driver where I get to choose.
“Obviously I want to go to a team that I know, based on the last few years, has been consistently high.
“Maybe one day AlphaTauri will be in that top part and in that case then there’s no reason to go to other teams. But anyway, it’s good to have lots of attention because it shows that I have much value and I think we as drivers we’re happy with things like this.”