The trials of an F1 rookie: Yuki Tsunoda on his early season struggles

What happened on at the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, where he yelled “I can’t f***ing believe this car” over the radio, having failed to reach Q3, then followed that up with an extraordinary complaint during a post-session TV interview suggesting that his car might not be of the same standard as his team-mate’s?

Tsunoda is generally unapologetic for his agitation over the radio, but he’s contrite regarding this situation. “What I said in Barcelona was unacceptable,” he admits. “It was ridiculous radio. The only thing I wanted to say was a bad excuse. I feel a lot of regret. Sometimes I get really frustrated, because I try to improve quickly and want the result.”

Tsunoda’s radio chatter certainly took his team aback during his early test outings last year. There were concerns that he wasn’t ready for F1 and that Honda’s desire to have its protégé in the car in the final season before it quits F1 led to a premature promotion. Those concerns were eased by progress in testing before the season reawakened the doubts.

However, as Tsunoda himself has said, F1 is meant to be difficult. Most rookies go through some version of these struggles; it’s how effectively they learn from them that matters. And if Tsunoda can do that and join the dots of his peaks of performance, he has the speed to make an impact.

His drive from as low as 17th on his debut in Bahrain to ninth for two championship points was excellent, showing a combination of impressive pace and decisive passing moves.

At Imola he was on course for points before spinning while rather audaciously trying to overtake Sir Lewis Hamilton, and in Spain he pulled off a great around-the-outside pass on Williams man George Russell before his race was curtailed by an engine-related problem. Then, despite dropping two places on the first lap following a late-race restart, he finished a creditable seventh in Azerbaijan.

These moments show the driver that Tsunoda can be. What’s more, it’s not simply a question of him always being ultra-attacking and sometimes pulling it off: he has shown real restraint at times, notably on opening laps, where he admits that he hasn’t been attacking enough.


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