AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda is the first Japanese driver to make the grid since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014. There are great things expected from Tsunoda and he has enjoyed a promising start to his career at the top level of the sport.
Tsunoda first got a gig with Honda back in 2016 and made his single-seater debut in the F4 Japanese Championship. He managed to win this in 2018 and it facilitated a move to Europe in 2018.
The Red Bull junior programme had seen huge potential in the diminutive youngster. Here, he was honed under the watchful eyes of Helmut Marko.
A string of successful performances saw Tsunoda climb up to the top tier in the space of just 4 years. Quite miraculously, he was able to notch points in his maiden Grand Prix in Bahrain.
When asked if Tsunoda can become the first Japanese world champion, Marko said he was sure of it.
“Definitely,” Marko told RacingNews365.com.
“Soon he will be a new star Formula 1. He’s smart and as I said, for 20 years, very mature, they all like him.
“He is a charming, 20-year-old Japanese guy with a sense of humour. We brought him in Europe, one season in F3, one season in F2, nobody noticed it and bang in Formula 1.”
F1 boss Ross Brawn was equally generous in his compliments.
“I’m really impressed with Yuki Tsunoda,” Brawn said.
“I met him at the weekend for the first time and he’s a really impressive character. He is quite amusing and his language in the car can be a bit fruity!
“He showed some brilliant spells in the race, which is encouraging considering it was his first F1 race. He is the best rookie F1 has had for years, having been fairly stunning in whatever series he has competed in.”
The rise of Tsunoda makes one think back to Max Verstappen. the Dutchman enjoyed a similar upturn in fortunes when he first burst onto the scene.
After impressing for Toro Rosso in 2016 at the age of 17, he was sent to Red Bull midway through the season.
“He [Verstappen] is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades. You must not look at his age,” Marko said.
“He has been talking with people who are experts when it comes to the development of youngsters and they all say that [in terms of] his mind he is more like 22 than 16.
“Regarding his skills behind the steering wheel, he has been racing since he was four years old – professionally. So we expect him to be competitive from the first race.”
The fact that Tsunoda was not fully satisfied despite notching points in his first race certainly does excite fans. In fact, he became the first rookie since Stoffel Vandoorne in 2016 to score points on his debut.
“The last stint I think was the best one for me, also in tyre management,” Tsunoda said.
“I think for me it was a good pace compared to the other two stints.
“I passed Stroll at the last lap in the first corner. It was a really late launch, but I decided that if I couldn’t overtake him, I wouldn’t sleep all night tonight!”
How long do you think it will take Tsunoda to win his first race? Let us know in the comments section below!