Podium target pressure caused Tsunoda’s early mistakes

Sam Cooper
Yuki Tsunoda answers a question. Miami, May 2022.

Yuki Tsunoda said pressure to achieve his first podium made him make mistakes during his rookie season in Formula 1.

In the history of Formula 1, only three Japanese drivers have ever earned a podium finish – Aguri Suzuki, Kamui Kobayashi, Takuma Sato – and it appears the pressure to become the fourth affected Yuki Tsunoda in the early parts of his career.

Having earned seven podiums during his F2 career, the Japanese driver joined AlphaTauri with a lot of expectation given he was the first driver from the country since 2014.

However, the beginnings of his rookie season came to be known more for his expletive-filled rants and he made a few notable mistakes. Now in his second year in the sport, Tsunoda has admitted his desire to earn podiums caused him to push harder than he should have.

AlphaTauri failing to ignite their season

After such a strong 2021, AlphaTauri have work to do to hit their heights again this season.

“At the moment, I don’t know,” Tsunoda replied when asked if was aiming to become the first Japanese race winner. “I’m just really focusing on the situation I have now, to develop the car mainly.

“At the same time, just score points as much as possible. Of course, if I had any opportunity that I’m able to maybe get a podium, I will try to maximise that opportunity. And it will be of course, good to have podiums, but currently, I’m not really focusing on those things.

“I will say I tried to have podiums or whatever last year, in the first half season, and I was just expecting too high and suddenly I had lot of mistakes, and just always pushed a lot of corners.

“Currently I don’t try to think about those things. And I’m really enjoying the situation I’m having now, working as a team and scoring points as much as possible. But of course, if I win or a get a podium, that’d be great.”

It is not the first time Tsunoda has reflected honestly on his rookie season. Earlier this month, he admitted he did not know what he was doing at times in 2021.

“Much more control, I would say, compared to last year,” he told Autosport when assessing his rookie year compared to this current season.

“Last year at the same time I was not fully in control. I didn’t know what I was doing, you know? And every lap just pushing to the limit, and that’s how things happen.

“But actually, that made me improve, so that was really good learning as a driver.

“After that I went to bad loop, but that makes good learning as well as a driver. And [I was] able to do a next step, that’s why I’m able to score points today. So, I think compared to last year it is a massive step, especially in the race pace.”