Expected to re-sign with AlphaTauri, Yuki Tsunoda tripped over himself debating the merits of Daniel Ricciardo versus Liam Lawson but without actually picking one of the two as his team-mate.
Although a rumour did the rounds recently saying the 2024 AlphaTauri team-mates could be Ricciardo and Lawson with Tsunoda bumped down to a reserve driver role, it’s now being suggested the Japanese driver will be confirmed by the team as early as this weekend’s Suzuka race.
His team-mate, though, remains a mystery.
Daniel Ricciardo or Liam Lawson?
AlphaTauri have a decision to make between two drivers; former Red Bull race winner Daniel Ricciardo or Singapore Grand Prix points-scorer Liam Lawson.
It, however, largely depends on what their long-term goal is as to which of the two gets the seat with 34-year-old Ricciardo looking for a quick promotion to Red Bull while Lawson probably won’t mind biding his time at AlphaTauri for a few seasons.
It was put to Tsunoda in Thursday’s FIA press conference as to which of the two he wants given rumours claim he’s taking one of the two seats.
“It’s not confirmed,” he said of his own future, before weighing in on the team-mate debate.
“I don’t know, to be honest I think both perspectives are a positive,” he continued.
“Daniel is definitely more experienced and he showed a lot of feedback. Comparison is really good. He definitely can tell more details about how the car is behaving so I think it helps a lot for the engineers.
“And I think he likes it, especially how he talks and how he helps the development side. So if the team wants to develop the car more to be competitive, maybe Daniel.
“But on Liam, I think he showed in his first two or three races that he immediately has performance and probably he’s still progressing.
“So on the performance side, obviously I’ve just done two races with Daniel and it was not really probably the best time for AlphaTauri as well.
“But in the last two races, when Liam actually came into Formula One, the car was pretty good in Monza and Singapore. So actually, he had a good time as well but at the same time he definitely performed well.
“So I think for AlphaTauri itself, we know this is a junior team, but at the same time there’s a bit more of a risk if we think about the results in general.”
He added: “It depends on what they are thinking you know. If they want results probably for Daniel it will easier, he has more experience and maybe can extract those results. But also Liam.”
While Ricciardo’s best result in his first two races before breaking his hand was a P13, Lawson scored two points in Singapore as he brought the upgraded AT04 home in ninth place. That’s the team’s best result of the season with Tsunoda having only managed three P10s previously.
At the end of it all, Tsunoda refused to pick one.
“I’m scared to say,” he said. “I think Liam also the best scorer, he got ninth, I’ve never done ninth.
“I’ll stop here. Maybe Liam and Daniel, three seats.”