Ross Brawn has welcomed Yuki Tsunoda as “the best rookie F1 has had for years”.
The Japanese youngster is among three newcomers on the grid this season along with Haas duo Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
All of the trio raced in Formula 2 last year when Schumacher took the title, Tsunoda finished third and Mazepin fifth, ensuring they all had super-licences to make the step up.
But it is Tsunoda who has caught Brawn’s eye following his elevation to the AlphaTauri team, where he dislodged Daniil Kvyat to race alongside Pierre Gasly.
The diminutive 20-year-old had acquired a big reputation before arriving in F1 and has shown why in his initial forays on track.
He clocked the second fastest time in pre-season testing, did likewise in Q1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix and despite starting the race only 13th on the grid, improved by four places to finish his debut P9 and in the points.
Despite knowing Schumacher – son of Michael, the seven-time former World Champion – very well because of his working relationship with his father at Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes, it is Tsunoda who has impressed Brawn, F1’s motorsport managing director.
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“I’m really impressed with Yuki Tsunoda. I met him at the weekend for the first time and he’s a really impressive character. He is quite amusing and his language in the car can be a bit fruity,” said Brawn in his regular column on the Formula 1 website, referring to the driver’s exasperation when he encountered traffic during a practice session.
“He showed some brilliant spells in the race, which is encouraging considering it was his first F1 race.
“He is the best rookie F1 has had for years, having been fairly stunning in whatever series he has competed in.”
Brawn was referring to Tsunoda enjoying three consecutive promotions, having been racing in Japanese Formula 4 as recently as 2018.
However, the debut left the driver himself only “50% happy” – even though he overtook the winners of seven World Championships in Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
“I was glad to get points but I lost quite a few positions on the first lap,” said Tsunoda. “That was my big mistake. I had to recover from there.
“I’m happy 50%. It was possible to go more forward for the positions. My first points feel okay but I think there is a lot of space to improve for the next race at Imola.”