Smart and small Tsunoda is Japan’s best chance for a champion

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AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda is on his way to becoming Formula 1’s newest star, Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko predicted.

The 20-year-old scored two points by finishing ninth on his debut last weekend, the best result for a Japanese newcomer since 2009.

“He’s smart and as I said, for 20 years, very mature,” said Marko.

Tsunoda quickly made himself popular at AlphaTauri since his first F1 test with the team at Imola four months ago.

“Soon he will be a new star Formula 1,” said Marko. “They all like him. He is a charming, 20-year-old Japanese guy with a sense of humour.”

The rookie’s diminutive dimensions makes him an ideal fit for a Formula 1 cockpit, Marko added: “159 [centimetres] and 61 kilos, so all designers love him!”

AlphaTauri “had all sorts of troubles” adapting their car and simulator for their new driver, Marko explained.

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“The pedals was the main thing, we had to bring the pedals forward. The simulator we still struggle to have the right seat for him.”

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Biography: Yuki Tsunoda

He reached the points from 13th on the grid, having gone out in the second round of qualifying when he failed to make the cut for Q3 on medium compound tyres.

“I think the team should have given him soft tyres for his very, very first qualifying, so he underperformed,” said Marko. “It would have been easier for him because he doesn’t have any routine in qualifying.”

Tsunoda has made his F1 debut just two years after arriving in Europe from Japan, where he won the regional Formula 4 championship in 2018.

“We brought him in Europe,” said Marko. “One season in F3, one season in F2, nobody noticed it and bang, in Formula 1.”

Tsunoda finished third in F2 last year, 15 points behind champion Mick Schumacher, and top-placed rookie. “Without his technical failures he would have won the championship easy,” Marko believes.

Asked by RaceFans whether Tsunoda would probably be Japan’s first F1 champion, Marko said: “Definitely.”

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