Yuki Tsunoda finds himself amidst the heavy speculation surrounding AlphaTauri and their driver line-up for 2024.
AlphaTauri currently has three drivers under consideration, although Tsunoda seems quietly confident his position within the team is secure. The Japanese driver has performed at an impressive level this year, comfortably dispatching Nyck de Vries in the opening rounds.
Given the excitement of the Formula E Champion’s arrival, Tsunoda deserves credit for his progression over the last eighteen months. Even Helmut Marko, senior advisor at Red Bull, expected the experienced De Vries to become “team leader” at AlphaTauri. Tsunoda’s form against Pierre Gasly last season was already encouraging, as he largely matched his more experienced French teammate. With that said, the uncompetitive AlphaTauri meant his development went largely under the radar.
In any case, Red Bull was unimpressed with De Vries and worked to facilitate Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback at the Hungarian GP. Ricciardo showed signs of encouraging pace at the Hungaroring, even out-qualifying his new teammate. However, Tsunoda responded immediately in Spa – securing P10 with a strong showing in Belgium.Ricciardo’s crash and subsequent injury in Zandvoort means that there is only a very small sample size for Tsunoda and Ricciardo’s time as teammates. This has contributed to some of the speculation surrounding AlphaTauri’s best options for 2024.
Experience vs Youth
To make matters more contentious, the arrival and near-instant results delivered by Liam Lawson have thrown another spanner in the works. Having spent 2023 racing in Super Formula, the Kiwi is proving why he’s so highly in the F1 paddock.
Team CEO Peter Bayer has previously explained that an experienced driver is a preference for 2024. Given the immediate potential shown by Liam Lawson, this triggered speculation that Tsunoda could be at risk of losing his seat. After all – assuming that Red Bull wants to give Daniel Ricciardo another contract – Lawson is now a viable contender to earn a full-time seat next season. However, recent developments suggest Tsunoda’s seat is safe.
Earlier this week, several reports suggested that AlphaTauri would announce a contract extension for the Japanese driver this weekend at his home event. More recently, Tsunoda responded with notable confidence to a question about his future in a press conference:
“Just wait and see. You will see soon.”
Such a response is far from an official announcement, but it certainly indicates the youngster has some confidence about his F1 future. Additionally, it is consistent with the new consensus amongst F1 news outlets.
Tsunoda Ricciardo line-up anticipated
Earlier today, Dutch journalist Erik van Haren reiterated that Yuki Tsunoda will soon be announced for next season. Daniel Ricciardo is also set to be confirmed, with Lawson likely to take the role of reserve driver. The next few days will surely provide more clarity on the situation surrounding Red Bull’s sister team. AlphaTauri’s year has been characterized by instability, so Red Bull will be eager to instill some continuity in Faenza.
Recent updates to the AT04 have been encouraging so far. The team will hope they can unlock the necessary performance for both AlphaTauri drivers to contend for points more regularly.