Tsunoda: ‘I’m not afraid to make mistakes’

Yuki Tsunoda. Picture: AlphaTauri

Japanese sensation Yuki Tsunoda has promised an all-out assault on his rookie Formula 1 season for AlphaTauri.

Tsunoda steps into the shoes of Daniil Kvyat to team up with race winner Pierre Gasly at the Red Bull feeder team in 2021.

The 20-year-old will be one of three first-year drivers on the grid – joined by Haas pair Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin – following his impressive Formula 2 campaign for Carlin last season.

He’s not about to timidly step into the world of F1, though.

“This will be my rookie season and I will be pushing hard right from the beginning to adapt to the car as much as possible,” Tsunoda told the official AlphaTauri website.

“However, I’m not afraid to make mistakes – I will of course try and limit them – but they are inevitable at the beginning.

“I am confident I can learn from my mistakes though, as I proved last year in Formula 2. I am really happy to have the support of Japanese fans, and I’m proud to be the one to bring another Japanese driver on the grid, after Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.”

Tsunoda revealed an increased focus on the mental side of the sport paid dividends last year.

“From the mid-season on, I worked with a psychological trainer and we talked a lot about my racing – how I prepare for the race and my attitude during the race – as well as other factors. That resulted in my mentality improving a lot,” he said.

His emergence comes five years after his motorsport career almost met its end.

“I was doing the Honda Junior Driver Test [in 2016] and I came third,” said Tsunoda.

“Normally Honda takes the first two drivers to move to Formula 4.

“I had discussed the test with my father and had decided that if I did not get through, I would give up racing.

“But the person in charge was former F1 driver Satoru Nakajima. He was watching from the outside of the chicane and he recommended me to Honda and that’s why I got a Formula 4 drive with Honda. So, it was down to him.”

As for why he’ll sport the #22?

“My number when I was racing in karting was 11, but in F1 that’s already taken by Sergio Perez,” he said.

“So, I doubled it to become 22, which I like also liked because it was the number of Jenson Button, a driver I respect a lot when he won the Formula 1 World Championship in 2009.

“It’s also a number used by Japanese driver Takuma Sato.”

Pre-season testing gets underway March 12 at Bahrain, a fortnight before Round 1 at the same location.

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