Yuki Tsunoda talks about doing well in F2 in his first year and graduation to F1 as Sergio Perez says he can only do this much with his driving.
In the 2021 silly season, few names have been consistently in headlines as has that of Red Bull/Honda junior Tsunoda, currently racing for Carlin in his debut F2 season. The Japanese racer has been linked to Daniil Kvyat’s seat at AlphaTauri for 2021.
The 20-year-old seems to have a good chance at acquiring a seat, bar any dramatic driver shuffles within the Red Bull programme. He had his first test at Imola, where Red Bull and AlphaTauri were able to assess him and gather data for decision-making.
Were he to join F1, Tsunoda would be another youngster of the many in the past three years to do so. Others include the likes of Lando Norris and George Russell, the former of whom was also a Carlin driver, and graduated to F1 after one year in Formula 2.
Tsunoda falls short of where Norris found himself in the F2 championship standings when he came second, but is happy with how he has done thus far. One round lies ahead in the championship fight. “You have to perform big in every single race,” he said to media including F1 website.
“That is pressure, but it’s a good mentality. This year has not been too bad, but we’ll see what happens in the future. My dream is to be a Formula 1 world champion and if I’d struggled in Formula 2, then this would have been really difficult. I had to deliver in my rookie season, like Lando Norris and George Russell did.”
With two rounds remaining in F2, Tsunoda is edging closer to the prospect of becoming F1’s only current Japanese driver – the first since Kamui Kobayashi. “I can see this from social media,” he said. “I would say that I have pressure from Japan, but a good pressure, not a bad pressure. They are waiting for a Japanese Formula 1 driver and I am one of the closest to achieving this. I would like to deliver for them.”
The journey to Europe has been a short one for Tsunoda so far. He only had his first single-seater run in 2019 after winning the F4 Japanese title in 2018. He did not start well in F3 last year but picked up nicely by the end of the season to finish ninth as a rookie.
Red Bull and Honda decided to move him up to F2 straightaway, which even surprised Tsunoda, but the Japanese has delivered so far. There needs polishing certainly but he has managed to deliver the results, which is what Helmut Marko is looking for.
Talking about Marko, Tsunoda revealed the chat he had with the Austrian. “I was given information from Helmut that I had to do well this season and that I would need to be fifth to get a Super Licence. He said if I was fifth, then I would qualify to drive in Formula 1, but if I was not, then I would need to drive in Japan again.
“It was strict, but I agree with him. If you’re a good driver, like George Russell, Lando Norris or Charles Leclerc, then I think you only need one year in F2 – they didn’t need two or three years,” summed up Tsunoda, as he discussed more about the love for Japanese food, which he misses while being in Europe.
He wants to celebrate success by eating sushi along with some ramen. It irks him when he sees people enjoying Japanese food while he cannot eat as much. While Tsunoda likes fish and chips, sweet potato wedges along with Italian and Spanish food like jamon and prosciutto, but Japanese food triumphs for him always.
As Tsunoda attempts to find his place in F1 as a prospect, so too does Perez as a veteran. The Mexican, currently at Racing Point (to-be Aston Martin), has been dropped in favour of Sebastian Vettel, despite having a contract until the 2022 season.
This is despite consistent performances from the 30-year-old, who likely faces a sabbatical – and that too at the end of one of his best seasons in the sport as he currently sits fourth in the F1 drivers’ championship standings.
“I think from my side it’s been a good season but also Formula 1, it’s so much related to your car’s potential,” said Perez. “I think I’ve had very good seasons in the past but were not seen as a good year because of the car potential.
“I was finishing seventh in the championship, a couple of times eighth, but I was still doing a good job, a tremendous job. I think right now I’m in a very good level in my career, I think probably at my peak in terms of experience, understanding, communication-wise with the team as well.
“I’ve been awhile with the team so that also helps. And yeah, I think the season has been a bit up and down due to a lot of things, circumstances, some on track, some off track but still we’re getting our season on track,” Perez summed up.
Here’s Sergio Perez after Turkish GP podium
Here’s Yuki Tsunoda after maiden F1 test