Yuki Tsunoda says he was surprised by the scale of the positive reaction he got from F1 fans in Europe after making a strong first impression on his debut.
The young Japanese driver says he does not feel added pressure as a result heading into the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, hoping to add to his first haul of points as a Formula 1 driver at AlphaTauri’s home race.
He said: “It was interesting that after Bahrain, I think I got a bigger reaction from European fans than from those in Japan. It’s a cultural thing – Japanese fans want to see what I do in a few rounds before getting a proper impression. I was surprised at that reaction in Europe.
“I didn’t expect it because for me, Bahrain was not a perfect weekend and I was hoping to finish higher [than ninth]. I am happy about the fans’ support but I don’t feel pressure because of it. I take it as something positive and this weekend I will just get on and do my job.”
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After raising eyebrows throughout the paddock with his strong pace from the off in Bahrain, as well as his profane radio messages, Tsunoda says he was not too overwhelmed by the extra demands of a Formula 1 weekend in comparison to Formula 2.
He is looking forward to returning to a circuit where he has enjoyed driving before – which he says will help him, instead of having the added layer of learning a new track.
“I very much enjoyed my first experience of a Formula 1 race weekend in Bahrain and now I’m looking forward to the second one at Imola,” he said. “There was not so much that surprised me about Bahrain, except the large amount of media work I had to do. I was not expecting that!
“I was always focused and didn’t feel tense or under pressure or feel I didn’t have enough time. It probably helped that we had our pre-season test at the same track. I think when we come to tracks that are new to me, like Portimao and Monaco, that will be tougher than Bahrain.
“It won’t be a problem at Imola as I have driven there a lot and so I can work in a similar way to what I did in Bahrain. I will use the experience from the first race and I already have confidence in the car at Imola. The circuit has a lot of medium-speed corners, as well as a few quick ones.
“I think this is why so many drivers enjoy driving there, because it’s different to other tracks. I also enjoy the Acque Minerali section at turns 11 and 12 where the track goes downhill and right-right. In fact, I like all the corners, but those especially.
“It’s important as it’s a home race for the team and even for me, it feels like home.”