Tsunoda said his first ‘hello’ to Kimi mid-spin

Jon Wilde
Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda has explained how the first time he greeted Kimi Raikkonen was in the middle of a pre-season testing spin.

The Japanese youngster is a newcomer to the Formula 1 paddock having been fast-tracked to an AlphaTauri seat this year after just a single F2 campaign.

And he certainly made his mark in the last couple of hours of testing in Bahrain, lighting up the timing screens as darkness fell with one purple sector after another – plus the odd fastest lap thrown in – to vie with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for the quickest time of the week.

Times, of course, are not truly representative in testing, but it was certainly impressive driving from Tsunoda on the face of it as he ended up in P2.

He had earlier announced his arrival to Raikkonen, who at 41 is at the complete opposite end of the experience scale with a record 329 F1 race starts to Tsunoda’s zero.

The duo’s closest contact so far was almost in the literal sense as Tsunoda, perhaps distracted by the Alfa Romeo, spun as he was passing the veteran Finn on the circuit – right in front of Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, who was recording trackside.

“There was a car in front doing a cool-down lap,” explained Tsunoda to the official Formula 1 website.

“I think I lost downforce and there was a tailwind today. I hit a little bit of strong wind, got a big slap and spun.

“It was Kimi, I think. I said hello and then came back. We haven’t met yet but finally I said hello on track, which was good.”

Check out the AlphaTauri 2021 merchandise collection via the official Formula 1 store

After reporting various niggles with the AlphaTauri on Saturday, the 20-year-old rookie was much happier with how his car performed the following day.

“The final day was really good,” added Tsunoda. “Good progress, no issues. I just focused on my driving, as I want to, which was very good.

“On the first two days we had a bit of bad luck, but on the final day we put it all together. The mechanics and Honda did a really good job, no issues and it was really comfortable to drive for the whole session. I achieved 91 laps so that was really good testing.

“Definitely I enjoy the softest tyres – big grip. I’ve never experienced grip like that –when I was testing at Imola I had much less grip. I definitely enjoyed it and we had good data.

“So it was a really enjoyable day for the learning, for my driving – I did a whole race simulation – and also for the tyre management side. I had a good step forward and good data for the Bahrain Grand Prix, so it was good.”

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