Japanese rookie Tsunoda aims for instant F1 impact at AlphaTauri

TOKYO (AFP) – Yuki Tsunoda said yesterday he was confident his attacking driving style would give Japanese fans plenty to cheer when he makes his Formula One debut for AlphaTauri next season.

The 20-year-old will become the first Japanese driver to compete in Formula One since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014 after the team last week announced he would replace Russia’s Daniil Kvyat.

Tsunoda was named FIA rookie of the year on Saturday after finishing third in his debut season with British team Carlin in the Formula 2 championship, and the Japanese driver wants to make a similar impact when he steps up in class next year.

“My strong point is my attacking style, and I’m confident that people who see me driving will be impressed by it,” the 20-year-old, who won three Formula 2 races in 2020 with seven podium finishes and four pole positions, told reporters during an online press conference.

“I’m a rookie, so for the first half of the season I want to double down on my attacking style and take it as far as I can, even if I make mistakes,” he added.

Tsunoda, who is backed by the junior programme of AlphaTauri’s engine supplier Honda, will join France’s Pierre Gasly at the Italian team next season.

Yuki Tsunoda will become the first Japanese driver to compete in Formula One since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

The diminutive 1.59 metre Japanese admitted he will have to hit the gym over the winter to cope with the Formula One car’s superior power and downforce after driving 123 laps during his Formula One test in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.

“In Formula 2, I didn’t really notice my neck moving forward when I braked, but when I drove an F1 car and hit the brakes for the first time, I really felt the G-force on my neck,” said Tsunoda.

“At the end of the day, if I didn’t rest my head against the headrest, I couldn’t even lift it. I’m going to have to strengthen my neck muscles so I can compete next season.”