Formula 1

Yuki Tsunoda shocked by media whirlwind after F1 point-scoring debut | F1 | Sport

Yuki Tsunoda more than impressed during his Formula One debut, scoring points in his first ever race in his AlphaTauri, the first driver to do so since Stoffel Vandoorne in 2016 with McLaren.

Tsunoda even caught the attention of F1 boss Ross Brawn, who hailed F1’s first Japanese driver since 2014 as the “best rookie F1 has had for years”.

Tsunoda started 13th on the grid in Bahrain and throughout the race went head-to-head with two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso before nicking ninth place from Lance Stroll on the final lap of the race, finishing P9.

“I very much enjoyed my first experience of a Formula 1 race weekend in Bahrain and now I’m looking forward to the second one in Imola. There was not so much that surprised me about Bahrain, except the large amount of media work I had to do. I was not expecting that! Of course, the race and Qualifying was new, but nothing was too surprising,” he said.

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“In our qualifying in Bahrain, I have no regrets about our strategy, because being committed to trying to get through to Q3 on the medium tyre was a good experience and for the team it was a new challenge to try and use that tyre. I learned a lot from that, even if I had expected I could have been higher up the grid with the potential to be top five or top six.

“I was always focussed and didn’t feel tense or under pressure or feel I didn’t have enough time. It probably helped that we had our pre-season test at the same track. I think when we come to tracks that are new to me, like Portimao and Monaco, that will be tougher than Bahrain.”

Tsunoda was the standout rookie in Bahrain – with the other pairing of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin struggling with Haas, and was the first Japanese driver to score points since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012.

And his performance sent ripples throughout the paddock.

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“I’m really impressed with Yuki Tsunoda. I met him at the weekend for the first time and he’s a really impressive character,” Brawn wrote in his Bahrain Grand Prix debrief.

“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. His promotion by Red Bull looks like a brilliant move.”

And heading into the second race of the season, the 20-year-old said he felt confident in the car, and around a track he says he knows well.

“It won’t be a problem in Imola, as I have driven there a lot and so I can work in a similar way to what I did in Bahrain,” he explained.

“I will use the experience from the first race and I already have confidence in the car in Imola. The circuit has a lot of medium speed corners, as well as a few quick ones. I like fast chicanes like turns one and two, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.

“It really is a special feature of Imola. The track also goes up and down quite a lot and I really like it. I think this is why so many drivers enjoy driving there, because it is different to other tracks. I also enjoy the Acque Minerali section at turns 11 and 12 where the track goes downhill and right-right. In fact, I like all the corners, but those especially.”

“It’s important as it is a home race for the team and even for me, it feels like home.”

The Red Bull and Honda protege was promoted to AlphaTauri at the expense of Daniil Kvyat after a sole season in Formula 2, but F1 fans had already shown their excitement for the young driver.

However Tsunoda admitted the support he received was far greater than expected.

“It was interesting that after Bahrain, I think I got a bigger reaction from European fans than from those in Japan,” he added. “It’s a cultural thing: Japanese fans want to see what I do in a few rounds before getting a proper impression. I was surprised at that reaction in Europe. I didn’t expect it, because for me, Bahrain was not a perfect weekend and I was hoping to finish higher.

“I am happy about the fans’ support, but I don’t feel pressure because of it, I take it as something positive and this weekend I will just get on and do my job.”

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