Yuki Tsunoda wary of taking on Pierre Gasly’s team leader role

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are interviewed. Qatar November 2021.

AlphaTauri drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda take part in a joint interview. Qatar November 2021.

Yuki Tsunoda admits it will be “hard” to take on Pierre Gasly’s role of team leader at AlphaTauri, that’s if the Frenchman leaves for Alpine.

Gasly is reportedly in line to replace Fernando Alonso at Alpine next season, the driver having agreed terms with the team while Red Bull have also reached an agreement with Alpine over the fee to release him from his contract.

However, there is one hold up: Colton Herta.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has made it clear that unless the FIA makes allowances for Herta to sign with AlphaTauri despite not having the mandatory superlicence points, he won’t release Gasly.

But if the FIA clears the path for Herta and Gasly moves to pastures new, that means Tsunoda with his two-years of Formula 1 experience will be AlphaTauri’s defacto team leader with his rookie by his side.

He admits it won’t be easy stepping into Gasly’s role.

“Of course, it will be hard,” he said as per Motorsport.com.

“Pierre always gives good quality feedback even when the team is struggling, and I learned a lot of things from him.

“I wouldn’t expect straightaway to be able to perform or give the feedback to the team straight away like Pierre. But currently I’m learning as much as possible from him.

“Still, there’s a lot of room I can learn from him. Currently, we face it the same way, just develop the car as much as possible, to have more consistent pace through the race week.”

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has previously criticised Tsunoda’s feedback, saying the “engineer can’t do anything with feedback like ‘bloody f*cking car’. We have to know what exactly is the car doing. He has to analyse that and then say it factually.”

Yuki Tsunoda putting in his ear plugs in the garage. France July 2022

Can Yuki Tsunoda lead AlphaTauri?

AlphaTauri is a team that traditionally keeps drivers for two or three years, then they are either off to Red Bull, a rival team, or they’re out of Formula 1.

That Gasly has been in and out for six years is an anomaly which means AlphaTauri is used to operating without a team leader, or even a driver with years of experience.

But this is a new era, and seems today the Faenza-based team wants to be more than just a learning ground for future Red Bull drivers – they have goals of their own.

Alas to date Tsunoda hasn’t really shone he’s the guy to help them achieve said goals. In a year when the team is struggling to get on top of the new rules, Tsunoda is trailing Gasly by 18 points to 11. He’s also behind his team-mate in their qualifying head-to-head.

It must be said, though, that he has cut down on his mistakes two years into his F1 career, which has AlphaTauri hoping that next season he’ll take another stride forward.

But it may not be enough to make him an effective team leader.