Yuki Tsunoda

Points 11 Position 16 Date of Birth May / 11 / 2000
Place of Birth Sagamihara Team AlphaTauri Car Number 22

Yuki Tsunoda is a Japanese Formula 1 driver, born in Sagamihara, Japan on May 11, 2000.

He started to catch the eye in Formula 4 as he finished P3 in his first season in 2017 before winning the World Championship in his second.

Such performances earned him a spot in Red Bull's young driver programme, as well as a seat in Formula 3 where he won one race and picked up 67 points in 16 races before being promoted to Formula 2 for the 2020 season.

That campaign proved to be his best yet as, up against far more experienced drivers, he finished it in P3 and would have been a contender for the title if not for some bad luck.

With him impressing and Helmut Marko keen to get another of his talents into F1, rumours of Tsunoda replacing Kvyat for 2021 persisted throughout the year, and the move that many expected to happen was finally announced after the final F1 race of 2020.

It wasn't the smoothest of rookie seasons on the grid in 2021 with him making a number of mistakes and struggling to match the pace of team-mate Pierre Gasly. There were however signs of progress towards the end of the year and he was ultimately retained for 2022.

The Japanese driver is renowned for his aggressive driving style, with his late braking and overtaking drawing comparisons between himself and the likes of fellow Red Bull products Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, and Marko saying he has "unbelievable basic speed."

Another of his trademarks is his aggression on the team radio with him often ranting furiously and explicitly during sessions. It's a habit that he's said he's trying to cut out.

Career

While most who join the Formula 1 grid do so with experience of multiple tests to their name already, this wasn't the case for Tsunoda.

Ahead of the 2021 season, he had only driven an F1 car twice. His first experience came in November 2020 as he drove a 2018-spec AlphaTauri around Imola in order to obtain a basic Super License, by completing 300km, and thus be allowed to drive in F1.

He competed in an official F1 session for the first time at the 2020 post-season test in Abu Dhabi. In it, he completed a total of 122 laps with his best time being a 1:37.557, which was enough to put him P5 by the end of the session.

A large reason why he hadn't driven in more testing or practice sessions in F1 was his physique. Being 5'2 and weighing just 54kg, he required more preparation than most in order to withstand the high-level g-forces that comes with driving an F1 car.

Ahead of his rookie season, he stated that he was working hard on strengthening his neck muscles after being surprised by the physical demands of the AlphaTauri when he tested it.

Big things were expected of him in his rookie year on the grid but he more often than not struggled to live up to the hype surrounding him.

That wasn't the case at the season opener in Bahrain as he finished in P9 after an excellent performance that featured a number of overtakes, but that was as good as things got for a while as four pointless race weekends followed.

Results improved after that with him finishing inside the top-10 in four of the six remaining races in the first half of the season, but mistakes were still all too common for Marko's liking.

He was unable to cut such errors out after the summer break and struggled to match the pace of Gasly, but glimpses of his potential were enough to convince AlphaTauri to keep him for 2022.

He rewarded their faith with his best performance yet in the season finale in Abu Dhabi as he claimed P4 after being towards the top of the midfield all weekend.

History

Tsunoda's professional motorsport career started in 2010 when, at the age of 10, he competed in the JAF Junior Karting Championship, ending the season in P6. The following year, he finished P5, before moving up a class in 2012 and taking P3.

In 2013, he won the regional series before driving in the national class the following two years, finishing P11 in the first and P2 in the second.

He got his first opportunity outside of karting in 2016 and took it, finishing P2 and P4 in the two races he drove in the F4 Japanese Championship. Such performances were enough to secure him a full-time seat with Honda's team for the 2017 campaign.

He was hugely impressive, winning three races, taking six further podiums and ending the season in P3. In 2018, he went one better, winning the title with seven wins and 245 points.

He was rewarded with a place in Red Bull's young driver programme and spot on the Formula 3 grid for 2019 with Jenzer Motorsport. After initially struggling to adapt, he found his feet and, towards the end of the year, scored three podiums in a row, with the final one being a victory.

Soon after that, Honda announced that he would spend 2020 in Formula 2 with Carlin, with Helmut Marko telling him that he expected a top-four finish in the standings.

He again made a mixed start, taking two podiums but failing to finish in the points in any of the other opening eight races. After that though, he put himself firmly into title contention with wins at Silverstone and Spa and P4 finishes in the two races between.

Ultimately, he wasn't able to challenge Mick Schumacher for the Championship due to some crashes and mechanical problems, but he did still achieve his pre-season goal by finishing the year in P3, ending it with a win and a P2 finish on the final race weekend and earning the Anthoine Hubert trophy for best rookie.

Marko and Red Bull were impressed by how he faired in F2 and the decision was taken for him to replace Daniil Kvyat and AlphaTauri for the 2021 F1 campaign.

With drivers rarely earning a huge amount in the feeder categories, it's likely that, to date, Tsunoda hasn't earned a huge amount from his racing career when it comes to contracts with his teams.

The vast majority of his earnings would have thus far come from various endorsements and sponsorships from the likes of Red Bull, Honda and Maseki.

His salary at AlphaTauri is unknown, but the man he's replacing, Daniil Kvyat's, was reportedly around $300k in his final season. Given Tsunoda's lack of experience, his will most likely be slightly less.

Tsunoda's father, a mechanic, was a key influence in his decision to pursue a career in motor-racing.

He saw his dad competing in a local racing series and quickly became interested in trying his hand at it himself. His father asked him whether he preferred two wheels or four wheels, and after choosing the latter, they quickly set about getting him into karting.

For the next decade, his father would be his mechanic and advisor, attending every race as he made his way through the ranks, before retiring.

Little else is known about Tsunoda's family or life away from the race track.