Yuki Tsunoda: What’s his racing history and why did he get catapulted into Formula 1 so early?

Yuki Tsunoda has raced his way to Formula One in a span of just three years. His transition from Japanese F4 to the F1 seat with AlphaTauri has been astonishingly fast to say the least. So, let us find out more about this Red Bull protégé who might be Japan’s first ever driver to win a World Championship Grand Prix. That is despite David Coulthard saying he doesn’t see it happening.

Early life

Tsunoda was born in Sagamihara, Kanagawa. He started his professional karting career in 2010 by joining the JAF Junior Karting Championship. He progressed through the various classes each year and eventually graduated to single-seaters in 2016.

Yuki Tsunoda in his karting days. Source: monocolle.com

This landed him a late-season entry in the F4 Japanese Championship. Following that Tsunoda was given a full season seat in F4 Japan after he obtained a debut podium.

Living the Honda Dream

In 2017, Tsunoda joined the Honda Formula Dream Project. Tsunoda had a strong debut season in F4 Japan, finishing third overall while also winning the East division.  

Honda showed their trust in him in Japanese F4 for 2018, and subsequently were rewarded with seven victories and the championship crown. As a result, Honda’s new Formula One partners Red Bull signed Tsunoda at the end of the season, and the Japanese prospect moved to Europe as a member of the Red Bull Junior Team.

Tsunoda then competed in both the FIA Formula 3 Championship and the Euroformula Open Championship in 2019, alongside other members of the Red Bull Junior Team.

The Japanese racer finished fourth in the latter series with a single victory, as well as ninth in F3 and eleventh in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix at the end of the season.

Accerelating into F3

Tsunoda joined Carlin in the FIA Formula 2 Championship for the 2020 season, having signed a contract with the British team. Tsunoda had an impressive debut season, winning three races in a late charge to third place in the championship. This earned him the Anthoine Hubert Award for best rookie.

Staking a claim and winning F1 seat

After securing the required points in the F2 Championship, Tsunoda was announced as the second driver for AlphaTauri for the 2021 season.

He partnered up with Pierre Gasly. Despite Honda’s announcement of leaving F1 at the end of 2021, the engine supplier was assumed to have been behind Tsunoda’s promotion.

In the Spanish Grand Prix 2021, Yuki Tsunoda had a rather disappointing qualifying session and questioned whether AlphaTauri was giving him the same car as his teammate Pierre Gasly.

It will be interesting to see Tsunoda’s progress in the upcoming seasons.

Read more: TOP 3: Junior drivers who we could soon see feature in F1

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