Trevor Carlin has backed Yuki Tsunoda to succeed with Alpha Tauri in Formula 1, revealing that the 2020 Formula 2 title contender was “far better than we ever anticipated,” and suggesting that he could begin to challenge teammate Pierre Gasly towards the end of the season.

The Carlin team boss said that he had no hesitation when asked by Red Bull’s Helmut Marko whether he would run Tsunoda, having witnessed the Red Bull junior’s speed with Jenzer Motorsport in Formula 3 in 2019.

However, Carlin admitted that he was still surprised by how just quickly the rookie got to grips with the promotion.

“We had never run him before, but what I had seen was his exceptional race craft in F3,” Carlin explained. “I was happy to have him on board because I had seen Yuki race so hard in F3, and F2 is a real racer's championship.

“I didn’t expect him to get up to speed so quickly though, or to truly understand the tyres from a race point of view as fast as he did. He could qualify - his qualifying was exceptional and better than we expected as well - but his understanding of the tyres was even better. He was far better than we ever anticipated.”

Tsunoda took seven podiums, including three wins, over the course of the 12-round season. The Japanese driver proved a force around one-lap from the off, but struggled to initially perform in the races, taking just two points finishes – albeit both podiums – in the opening eight races.

The 20-year-old progressed rapidly as the season went on and put together a late title charge, only missing out on second by one point in a stunning season finale that saw him take a double-podium, finishing first and second, having already taken pole.

Third in the Championship proved to be more than enough to earn Tsunoda a Super Licence and convince Marko to hand him an opportunity in F1 with Alpha Tauri. Carlin is amongst those who are firmly backing that decision.

“I think he will succeed because he is naturally fast,” explained Carlin. “His hand eye coordination and what he does in the car, he is naturally good at.

“As long as he doesn’t get bombarded with too much technical responsibility initially, and if he gets a little bit of time to focus on his driving, then I think he will make massive steps. From the middle of the season onwards, I think he will be super quick and start to threaten Pierre. I really think he will.”