The Honda pullout is not to affect the position of F2 racer Yuki Tsunoda as the Japanese continues to be in frame to make his F1 debut with AlphaTauri.
In the wake of Honda’s recent departure from F1, there were concerns over the implications this has relating to Formula 2’s Tsunoda, currently competing with Carlin as a member of the Red Bull and the Honda junior program.
With immense backing from Honda, Tsunoda was considered a shoo-in for an AlphaTauri drive in 2021, the Japanese driver having already showed promise in his racing in the F1 feeder series’. However, with Honda stepping away from in 2021, a shadow of doubt has been cast over what had seemed at one point like an inevitability.
Tsunoda, however, remains a favorite, as AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost asserted that a decision will be made on merit, just as it was to be prior to the news of Honda’s departure. The Japanese is set to test for them in Abu Dhabi.
“Scuderia AlphaTauri currently has two fast drivers with Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat,” said Tost. “We will do the young driver test day with Yuki Tsunoda and this has nothing to do with the decision from Honda that they will not continue after ’21.
“The philosophy at Red Bull is always the performance and if Yuki performs well and he is doing a really good job in F2 – he has won two races this year, at Spa and Silverstone if I remember rightly and in Austria as you remember hopefully, he was leading the race in the wet until a few laps to go and because of radio problems he couldn’t win this race.
“He is doing a really good job and this is decisive, the performance of the driver and this was always the philosophy and this will always stay like it is and then we will see what Red Bull decides regarding their drivers for 2021,” summed up Tost.
Honda’s Masashi Yamamoto also clarified that his organisation’s divorce with Red Bull has no bearing on the future of Tsunoda, who was only offered support from the Japanese automaker where it would be beneficial for all parties involved.
“Personally, I don’t think our leaving has any impact there,” he said. “Red Bull don’t just let anyone drive their cars. I think they will be evaluating him strictly as a Junior driver and also it depends on his F2 results as well. But we’d like to back him up where we can.”
One thing that might have threatened a potential Tsunoda appointment is the change in superlicense regulations which likely brings Juri Vips in the game, who otherwise, would have struggled to get one unless he performed in the current season.
Vips was scheduled to compete in Super Formula but travel restrictions has meant that he is unable to move to Japan. The championship has adjusted the points system to five best races from seven, where the Estonian can still compete and score the points.
But having raced in F2 and Formula European Regional Championship, it remains to be seen what Vips does next and if he still goes to Japan. At the same time, for Tusnoda, the change in the system only adds to his betterment with an extra option.
He will already score the 40 required this year by virtue of a Top 4 finish in F2 – currently sits third in a close pack. Despite the Honda pullout, the Japanese can still be backed by the manufacturer to be in F1 if Red Bull sees good potential in him.
Here’s the changes in superlicense system
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