Yuki Tsunoda’s drastic suggestion to counter AlphaTauri’s ‘horrible’ top speed

Thomas Maher
AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda on track at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda on track at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda has an unusual suggestion for his team to help with his car’s straight-line speed for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Following on from a tough Australian Grand Prix weekend, where Tsunoda finished in 10th place to claim his, and AlphaTauri’s, first point of the season, the Japanse driver believes drastic measures will be needed for his AT04 to be competitive at some venues.

Tsunoda briefly looked on for a major points score, having vaulted up to fifth just as the red flag was shown for the standing restart carnage, only to be shuffled back down the order again when the race was suspended for the final time.

With AlphaTauri struggling for outright competitiveness so far in F1 2023, Tsunoda said a lack of straight-line speed is particularly noticeable – a particularly detrimental deficit to have at the high-speed Albert Park circuit and, potentially, even more hampering down the extremely long straights of Baku at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in three weeks time.

Yuki Tsunoda: We need no wing to be fast in Baku!

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Tsunoda was asked for his thoughts on the sprint qualifying format being used for the first time this season at a track that invites chaos at the best of times.

“It will be crazy,” he said.

“But at the same time today, I just had a massive drag on the straight, and straight-line speed was horrible.”

As a result, Tsunoda reckons minimal downforce will be needed on his car to have any chance of being competitive next time out.

“So in Baku, we need at least no wing or something like that to maximise straight-line speed,” he said.

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Tsunoda’s points score came despite having run without AlphaTauri’s new floor throughout the Australian weekend, having damaged it through going off track in first practice. While Nyck de Vries was able to run his from FP2 onward, Tsunoda had to revert to the old specification floor.

The positive of the situation was that the two drivers running different specifications allowed for direct comparison – although Tsunoda would have preferred to have had access to the new parts.

“Yeah, it definitely was my mistake that I had to kind of force myself to use the old floor, which was not ideal for the team,” said Tsunoda.

“Apologies from myself. Fortunately, I think I maximised the performance, of what we did. Pretty happy with the performance. So yeah, looking forward to Baku.”

Jody Egginton: Lack of straight-line speed hampered us

With De Vries eliminated from the race late on after being struck by Logan Sargeant at the final restart, the point scored by Tsunoda served as welcome relief for AlphaTauri after a tough start to the season.

“It was a very difficult race for us,” said technical director Jody Egginton afterward.

“Both drivers pushed hard to extract all they could from the package, but we couldn’t manage to get the cars moving forward as required. The pace of the car was not there on all compounds, and we struggled for straight-line speed, as such, we weren’t able to attack nor hold position in some phases of the race. We leave Melbourne with a lot of data to go through and a lot of work ahead of us in order to be best prepared for Baku.”