Kobayashi’s role in Tsunoda’s path to F1

Yuki Tsunoda

Japan’s most prolific Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi has revealed how he crossed paths with a young Yuki Tsunoda on the latter’s journey to Formula 1.

Tsunoda made his debut last weekend for AlphaTauri, finishing ninth in the Bahrain Grand Prix after executing a last-lap pass on Lance Stroll.

That move capped a promising start for a driver who many have high hopes for.

Having tallied 125 points across 75 F1 starts from 2009-14 including a podium at Suzuka, Kobayashi has liked what he’s seen from Tsunoda, who has a similarly attacking driving style.

“I think before he joined Honda’s school he came to Toyota’s school and I was teaching him,” Kobayashi said of Tsunoda on the latest Beyond The Grid podcast.

“He was 14 or 15 years old… I spoke with him sometimes… I think he will be good but just [depends] how he fits and how he has a good match with his car and the team as well.

“He has a really tough driver next to him [in Pierre Gasly].

“It’s [important] that he matches with the car. He was good in F2 but if you look at F3 he was not very special, so I think he can be good if he matches the car.”

Kobayashi added the 20-year-old’s flair will bring ups and downs, necessitating the need for a good manager.

“For sure he can have a good result but he can have, maybe, mistakes as well,” said the former Toyota, Sauber and Caterham driver.

“With mistakes, he needs to have someone to explain well to the team. He needs a filter to manage himself.

“If he is still young and he doesn’t have experience in motorsport, he needs to know someone who can help him to manage his mind and his amount of confidence.

“It’s no doubt that with time he’ll be good one day but it’s how he manages his image with the team, his brand… in Formula 1. This is most important, I feel.”

Since his F1 career ended, Kobayashi has forged a successful endurance racing career with Toyota, taking four podiums in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and winning the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship.

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