Tsunoda’s self-confessed 'limit’ is still too expensive

Yuki Tsunoda’s speed and erratic tendencies are often at odds. This makes him fun and frustrating, as well as the most valuable Formula 1 driver for AlphaTauri and someone who has made costly mistakes.

Tsunoda is a great young driver and his progress is clear from his rapid arrival to F1 in 2021. He’s inconsistent, with a question mark about how good he can be and whether he can smooth the edges enough to reach that potential, but the raw materials are real.

His excellent run of the 2023 season has perfectly showcased his good and bad sides. Tsunoda’s 10 points from the past three races are crucial for Alfadauri, who move up two places in the championship and within striking distance of seventh place from Williams.

But he could have scored more.

Had Tsunoda not inadvertently collided with Oscar Piastre in Mexico, or had a half-spin costed him a spot in Brazil (maybe two), AlphaTauri would still be seven points behind Williams. It’s no coincidence that those two errors came while Tsunoda was playing catch-up, trying to salvage a perfect finish.

The substandard stage is also not Tsunoda’s fault. In Mexico he was penalized for an engine change, and in Brazil, AlphaTauri didn’t do well in qualifying (he was still faster than Daniel Ricciardo). But in both cases Tsunoda’s response was to start well, drive well, drive faster – then wrong.

Brazil finished sixth in the sprint race after being pushed onto the curb exiting Turn 2 on the opening lap and sustaining some damage.

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„I was a lot more patient than in the most recent races,” he said after that run.

“On the radio, usually when I’m in good shape, I’m not bad. I only get more excited when I’m in a bad situation, and that’s definitely my limit.

„I think I did well, I didn’t push it too much to overtake Lewis [Hamilton] as well as It was great, a flashback from Mexico. But very happy with the race.

About 24 hours later, Tsunoda was still happy. But he apologized after a completely unnecessary error that fortunately had no major consequences.

„That was a big mistake and I apologize to the team,” Tsunoda said in his opening game after he inadvertently dropped a wheel on the grass and went half-spinning.

„That was a big mistake, a little scary. I *** my pants. Luckily I didn’t DNF.

When things are going well, Tsunoda has a tendency to look really good. When they’re not, when he’s „excited,” the flaws emerge. For Tsunoda, the radio explosion was a costly rush of lapses in focus or impatience.

Don’t take our word for it. Former team-mate Pierre Gasly, who knows Tsunoda well and has a great personal relationship with him, believes that control is the key to continuing to eliminate his potential.

Although Tsunoda’s speed has rarely come under criticism this season, Casley feels that Tsunoda is faster than he’s been given credit for. But a change of mindset, extra focus and effort underpinned Tsunoda’s development to where he is now, and that’s why he can improve on his huge remaining deficit.

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„He changed his attitude, [he] „There was a bit of an underestimation of the work it takes to be a great F1 driver,” Gasley said.

„I didn’t send myself flowers, but I made him understand that he needs to work hard to keep up. [in F1] And get the full potential out of yourself.

„He’s got the speed to be there, he’s got to get himself in a zone where he can be more calm and less sensitive to certain situations that don’t always play in his favor.”

A failure to do so at times in the last two events has left Alfadauri with little chance of turning his late surge in performance into a better championship result at an inflated cost.

If Tsunoda can make it this long — and he hopes to take cues from Ricciardo to achieve it — it will benefit him significantly.

Whatever his team lost during his most „exciting” moments this season, he can make up for it many times over.

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