It was less than two years ago that Yuki Tsunoda raced in Europe for the very first time, but now the Carlin racer sits third in the Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship and is heavily touted for a seat in Formula 1.
It’s been an incredible two years for the Japanese driver, who has adapted to the Road to F1 better than anyone could have imagined. Two wins, three poles and a further three podiums barely scratches the surface of just how impressive Tsunoda has been in his rookie season.
Tsunoda is 44 points off Schumacher with four rounds to go and has said himself that he is still targeting the title, even if his main ambition is to qualify for a Super Licence. We evaluate his chances ahead of Bahrain.
ONE LAP PACE
Yuki Tsunoda’s greatest strength this season has been his one lap pace. He’s been fastest in Free Practice four times – no other driver has managed this feat more than once – and he’s taken pole three times – only Callum Ilott has more.
The fact that Tsunoda has consistently been at the front has been key to his success- he puts himself in the best post position to get a result, without the need for a mammoth fight through the grid.
In terms of individual moments, Tsunoda highlight of the season was arguably his victory in Spa. Technically, the Japanese driver crossed the line second behind Nikita Mazepin, although the Russian was later penalised for defending a little too strongly, which handed Tsunoda the win.
The 21-year-old was a well-deserved victor and had looked dominant all weekend, after taking pole. He’d only lost the lead after a slow pit stop and appeared to be on course for the win, had the change gone more smoothly.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Combining his one lap pace with that type of race craft on a more regular basis is imperative for Tsunoda going forward. Of the three times that Tsunoda has been on pole, he’s only converted one of those into a win, finishing second to Robert Shwartzman in Spielberg and second to Mick Schumacher in Sochi.
Converting those into race wins, especially the latter in Russia, would have gone a long way to challenging Schumacher for the top spot. There have also been ten pointless races throughout the season, which was always going to make things difficult for him.
There has been a clear improvement throughout the season though, with six of those pointless races coming in the opening four rounds. He needs to continue that upward trend in the final two rounds.
FROM THE GRID
“I think that it will be really enjoyable,” Tsunoda said. “I will have to use all of my past experiences to make sure that I have good races. It will be really tough, but fun. I really want to deliver for the team, who have worked hard and helped me all year long and made the car really fast. I want to thank them with my driving. I am really looking forward to the race.
“The fight for the title is really tight. At the moment I am third, but it is so close and could very easily change in the final two rounds. There is a big gap to P1, but it is not impossible to finish first in the Championship. I am aiming to finish first and will push as hard as I can. It should be really exciting, and I am really looking forward to it.”