Yuki Tsunoda is refusing to give up in the race for the Formula 2 title with two rounds of the season to go, having collected his fifth podium of the year in Sochi, with a second-place finish in the Feature Race. The Carlin rookie has been a surprise title contender this season, instantly gelling with the upgrade in machinery, following his promotion from Formula 3.

Tsunoda admits that he didn’t know what to expect when entering the second tier, having finished seventh in F3 last season, with one victory and two further podiums. The 20-year-old already has two wins this year and sits third in the Drivers’ Championship, but is eying more before the conclusion of the campaign.

“It’s still really, really tight, especially third place to sixth,” he explained. “I don’t know how the Championship will look at the end of the season. I started the season as a rookie and everything was new to me, I didn’t know what to expect. I pushed as much as I could from Round 1 Free Practice and have been learning all along.

“I didn’t have any expectations before the season, but I think I’m doing quite a good job so far. I am racing for the team and for the Japanese fans and I want to have more good results, so I will keep pushing. My target is still to take first in the Championship, although there is quite a big points difference to P1.”

Tsunoda was quick from the off in F2, taking first in his maiden Free Practice outing with Carlin. He’s repeated that feat three times since then – the most of anyone on the grid. The problem initially was translating this into pace when points were on offer.

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He scored two podiums in the opening four rounds, but those were his only points’ finishes. Since then, he has taken a further three rostrums, including two wins, finishing out of the points just four times.

In Sochi, he took P2 in FP but put in a storming lap when it counted, snatching pole in Qualifying, directly ahead of his teammate Jehan Daruvala in a Carlin one-two.

“The pace was really good right from Free Practice. This has been the situation in almost every race week,” he continued. “In Sochi, I think that the car was even better than in previous rounds though.

“We had really, really good preparation leading up to the weekend with my teammate Jehan in the simulator and done a lot of work there. That helps to make our pace really good from the beginning. Our engineers done a really, really good job.

“I expected it to be a good race weekend because of the good work that we did beforehand. We went in with really good confidence and we were able to put it all together. That was our best Qualifying result so far as a team and we want to carry this on to Bahrain.”

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With 44 points separating him from Mick Schumacher in first place, Tsunoda knows that usurping the PREMA man will be a tough ask. He’ll need to deliver in all four of the remaining races but has full confidence in his team at Carlin to provide him with a car capable of doing so.

“I have to deliver in both of the final two rounds - I have to refocus for Bahrain,” he continued. “I need more weekends like Russia, but even better. We had good confidence this weekend, because we know how to make the car good and how to have a good race weekend.

I have to deliver in both of the final two rounds - I have to refocus for Bahrain.

“From my side, I have done a lot of simulator work to prepare and I will push to the end. Lap by lap, corner by corner, I will push as much as possible. I will also enjoy my races. That for me, is the biggest thing, it is key.

“I expect it to be a stressful situation, but for me, the more pressure you have, the better you become. I will try and drive to my maximum to help my future.”