Why Yuki Tsunoda Should Be Considered For A Top Seat

Yuki Tsunoda not popular choice to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull despite great performances.

Yuki Tsunoda has been a part of the Red Bull Junior Team since 2019. Red Bull supported him through his F3 and F2 career, before eventually signing him to their sister team Alpha Tauri in 2021.

He has been a great driver for them, maturing and on an upward trajectory performance-wise. Sergio Perez’s future at Red Bull is not secure, despite recently signing a contract extension. However, Yuki Tsunoda is not a strong candidate to replace the Mexican.

Looking at Yuki Tsunoda’s current form, as well as his form these past few seasons, it is rather odd that his name isn’t the one being thrown around a lot in regards to Red Bull’s second seat.

2021 – 2022: F1 debut

Driving alongside Pierre Gasly at Alpha Tauri, Yuki Tsunoda has a decent debut season. He scored points in his first-ever F1 race, scoring points in 6 further races that season.

Glimpses of immaturity showed in his first season. However, it was a difficult transition for Tsunoda. With little knowledge of the English language and how the F1 world works, Tsunoda was on quite the journey.

His teammate Pierre Gasly did help Tsunoda settle in, and their friendship was clear to anyone in the sport.

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Tsunoda finished P14 in the standings, three positions behind Gasly. The Japanese driver’s best finishing position that season was P4, at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Alpha Tauri dropped in pace for the 2022 season. Both Tsunoda and Gasly struggled to get to the points. They finished P17 and P14 respectively in the standings.

2023: The constant factor

Pierre Gasly who had assumed the role of team leader at Alpha Tauri left for Alpine in 2023. Joining Yuki Tsunoda at Alpha Tauri was Nyck de Vries.

Nyck de Vries earned his seat after an impressive one-off performance at the 2022 Imola Grand Prix where he drove a Williams to P9. He was expected to give Tsunoda a challenge.

However, that proved not to be the case. de Vries struggled at Alpha Tauri, unable to make an impression in the 2023 season. The Dutchman was unable to score points in the first 10 races and outperformed Tsunoda only twice. Tsunoda on the other hand scored points in 2 of those 10 races and got close to the points on 3 of those 10 occasions.

In true Red Bull fashion, Nyck de Vries was dropped halfway through the season, after those first 10 races. In his place came Daniel Ricciardo, former Toro Rosso and Red Bull driver.

However, the power dynamic was not what many expected it to be. Yuki Tsunoda often outperformed Daniel Ricciardo too. Ricciardo competed in 5 of the remaining 12 races as he broke his wrist in an incident during the Zaandvort Grand Prix weekend.

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In those 5 races, Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson raced in his fellow countryman’s place. Lawson gave Tsunoda more competition than both Nyck de Vries and Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo returned back to action at COTA and outperformed Tsunoda in only 1 of the remaining seasons.

The Japanese driver was P14 in the standings, having driven an incredible season in a struggling Alpha Tauri. He scored more points than all his teammates combined. Tsunoda also displayed maturity and improved performance levels throughout the 2023 season.

2024: The team leader

Despite Ricciardo having come from half a year off of F1, many assumed it was the Australian who would assume the role of team leader when he joined halfway through 20203. With more F1 experience and race wins under his belt, it made sense.

On an upward trajectory, Yuki Tsunoda has been performing well this 2024 season. Alpha Tauri, now known as Visa Cash App RB is still in the lower midfield. However, Tsunoda has still been able to show his potential.

Tsunoda has had 7 Q3 appearances so far whilst Ricciardo has had 2 Q3 appearances so far. He has finished in the points in 6 of 12 races so far, currently P12 in the standings.

In the qualifying head-to-head with his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, it is 9-3 in favour of Tsunoda. As for the race finishes, it is 10-2 in favour of Tsunoda. Yuki Tsunoda has also out-qualified Red Bull’s Sergio Perez four times this season.

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Tsunoda signed a contract extension with Visa Cash App RB, keeping him in the team until the end of the 2025 season as announced on 8th June 2024. The following day, Red Bull announced Sergio Perez’s contract extension.

With Perez’s performance on a constant decline, Red Bull stated that the Mexican is now at risk of a performance-related clause getting activated in his Formula 1 contract.

The second Red Bull seat dilemma

Whilst discussing Perez’s potential replacement should the team decide to not carry on with the Mexican, it is not Tsunoda’s name that is popular amongst the mouths of many, including representatives of Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo appears to be the favourite to take the second Red Bull seat alongside Max Verstappen. Liam Lawson is another favourite.

“You can never rule anything out.

“We have options for multiple years on him because we believe he’s a talent.” – Horner replied when asked by RacingNews365 if Yuki Tsunoda could step up to the main team in the future.

However, this comment does not say much. Tsunoda has never gotten the chance to test the Red Bull car. Daniel Ricciardo on the other hand has, whilst Liam Lawson is set to test the RB20 at Silverstone on Thursday.

In the past, Red Bull’s sister team has been known to house their junior drivers. It has been used to help them in the step up to better seats in F1. It is a path that Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and others have gone through over the years. Daniel Ricciardo too went through that path.

The sister team has never been used to house experienced F1 drivers, such as the instance in Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the team. When they re-signed him, it seemed to be in light of Red Bull keen to return him to the main team. This is an option that at the time seems the most possible as per words spoken by Red Bull representatives. If Ricciardo does make the step up to Red Bull again, Liam Lawson may replace him at Visa Cash App RB.

However, there is the issue of Yuki Tsunoda who has already proven that he deserves the step up to Red Bull’s main team. What more does he have to do to be a serious candidate for the seat? Is it a discrimination issue as the Japanese driver is a minority in a white-domianted sport? Will another team snatch Tsunoda from Red Bull before they realise his true potential?


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