AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda has been ruled out as a potential candidate to replace under-pressure Sergio Perez, it has been claimed.
Despite holding a contract until the end of next year, Perez’s seat with the reigning World Champions has come under severe threat during what has turned into a 2023 disastrous season.
Having won two of the opening four races in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, the Mexican’s campaign imploded with a run of five consecutive races without a Q3 appearances between Monaco and Britain.
Yuki Tsunoda not being considered to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull
Perez appeared to steady the ship with successive podiums prior to F1’s summer break, but questions over his future resurfaced at the Dutch Grand Prix when he spun and damaged his car in the rain-affected race after qualifying 1.3 seconds adrift of dominant team-mate Max Verstappen.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insisted at Zandvoort that Perez’s seat is safe for 2024 in a statement seemingly at odds with the stance of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who intimated that the team’s driver lineup for next season is yet to be decided.
Tsunoda, with Red Bull junior team AlphaTauri since 2021, has enjoyed his strongest season to date this year and has been linked with a promotion should Perez be dropped.
However, appearing on The Race F1 podcast, respected journalist Mark Hughes claimed Red Bull are highly unlikely to consider pairing the Japanese driver with Verstappen.
He said: “I don’t get the sense that they are thinking of him as a Red Bull driver.
“They see him improving, and he’s done a pretty solid job the last couple of years, but a Red Bull driver is someone who ideally is going to stick it on the front row and finish second to Max Verstappen – and I don’t get the sense that Red Bull feel that’s the level of performance he would achieve in that car.
“So the question then becomes: what is his function within the programme? And, at the moment, it’s doing a good job within AlphaTauri.”
Hughes went on to suggest that Tsunoda is simply not at the level required to join a front-running team, adding: “It’s harsh and I think he is a good driver that’s fully worthy of his place on the grid, but – I may be wrong – I don’t see him as regular grand prix winner even if you put him in a top team.”
Tsunoda is known to have strong links with Honda, Red Bull’s existing engine partner, who announced in May that they will join forces with Aston Martin when F1’s next major regulation change comes into effect in 2026.
It has led to speculation that the 23-year-old’s future may be in green as a replacement for either Fernando Alonso or Lance Stroll, whose father Lawrence currently owns the Silverstone-based team.