Yuki Tsunoda reflects on ‘really emotional’ Japanese GP practice debut

Jon Wilde
Yuki Tsunoda waves to the crowd. Suzuka October 2022.

Yuki Tsunoda waves to the crowd at the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka October 2022.

Yuki Tsunoda admitted his first Formula 1 appearance in front of his home fans at Suzuka had been “really emotional”.

Back on the calendar for the first time since 2019, the return of the Japanese Grand Prix has been warmly received by the drivers – some of whom, including Tsunoda, are referring to Suzuka as the best circuit in the world.

That is no surprise coming from the 22-year-old AlphaTauri driver, who used to attend the race as he was making his way up through the junior competitive ranks.

Tsunoda said he had to keep himself in check as he prepared for his opening practice session, and the experience had really hit home to him as he drove onto the circuit and passed the grandstands full of fans who had braved the wet weather.

“It’s amazing, definitely a dream come true. From the moment I got out of the garage in FP1 it felt really emotional,” Tsunoda told reporters when Friday practice was complete.

“Especially when I entered Turn 2 on my out-lap, I was there four or five years ago.

“I enjoyed it, not like feeling pressure or something, just enjoyed the whole day, and it was a reasonably good day.

“I tried not to feel over-excited, but outside of the car I felt more adrenalin, more energetic. Sometimes with those feelings it goes well but sometimes it might be too much, so I just did normal routine as I do at other tracks.

“Definitely it’s a special race week for me, a lot of fans. I’m seeing a lot of Japanese flags compared to other tracks, a lot of cheering from the grandstand.”

Tsunoda had a trip through the gravel during FP2, which he ended 14th fastest – an improvement of five places on his FP1 position.

“I realised that for me this is the best track in the world – super-fun to drive and a challenging track,” added Tsunoda. “One mistake and you will go to the barrier. It’s thrilling but a super-enjoyable track.”

Conditions are expected to be dry for qualifying and Tsunoda hopes to maintain his strong recent Saturday form – he has reached Q3 at two of the past three races.

“Definitely we aim for Q3,” he added. “We have good confidence and hopefully we can go to Q3.

“I want to perform as well as possible for the Japanese fans and also Honda’s logo is everywhere and Honda are a part of my racing career.

“I just want to say thank you to them, to Red Bull and AlphaTauri, and give them back with results.”

Read more – Sebastian Vettel: Suzuka ‘must have been designed by the Gods’