Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

How AlphaTauri’s "crazy" upgrade push helped Tsunoda deliver unthinkable feat

Yuki Tsunoda says his AlphaTauri team’s “crazy” upgrade schedule created the opportunity for him to lead his first laps in Formula 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Red Bull Content Pool

Tsunoda added that such a scenario couldn’t even have been thought about earlier in the season when the Faenza team was struggling for form.

Helped by floor updates to the AT04, he qualified sixth at the Yas Marina track and held onto the position in the early laps, rising up the order as the frontrunners pitted.

When Charles Leclerc came in Tsunoda took over the lead for five laps, before making his first and only stop.

He was only the second Japanese driver to lead a Grand Prix after Takuma Sato enjoyed a brief spell in front at the Nurburgring in 2004.

The subplot was that sixth would have been enough to relieve Williams of P7 in the constructors’ world championship on team principal Franz Tost’s last day in charge.

However, Tsunoda slipped behind the two-stopping Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso to ultimately claim eighth, which was not quite enough to deny the Grove outfit.

“I gave it everything,” he said when asked by Autosport about just missing out. “To be honest, I didn't know I was leading the pack. 

“So I'm quite surprised about it. And looking back, during the first half of the season, we never thought about it, that we'd be leading the pack.

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri

“So a massive privilege, and without the team effort, we couldn't achieve this much. The amount they pushed this year, almost every race we had upgrades, it was crazy. They deserve it.

“And also I wasn't able to give probably the biggest gift to Franz, but at least hopefully, I gave it all. And I showed at least my performance as a kind of appreciation for him.”

PLUS: Why a departing stalwart was perfectly suited to F1's most pragmatic team

With tyre degradation higher than expected across the early phases of the weekend, most drivers ran a two-stop plan, with Tsunoda's AlphaTauri being the notable exception.

“It was the plan, but we knew that it was going to be difficult,” he admitted. “We were kind of listening to what the tyres were saying. 

“And they held on quite well in the first stint, so that helps. And I think that was a that was a key moment.

“In the end what we did on the strategy itself was okay. Even if I did exactly the same strategy as the top teams I don't know if we able to finish P6 anyway, so I think we don't have regrets.”

Asked if he had any regrets over the season – such as his messy race in Mexico City that cost vital points – he said: “There's a couple of regrets, to be honest, especially Mexico.

“But yeah, this is learning, what I did there was definitely my biggest mistake all season, and I have to learn from it.”

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, collide as they battle for position

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, collide as they battle for position

Tsunoda stressed that the team’s late-season form bodes well for 2024 when the team will be rebranded and have a new boss in Laurent Mekies.

“I think what we did in Abu Dhabi with upgrades is kind of the philosophy for also next year as well,” he said.

“And if these upgrades work, it's a good sign for next year as well. So at least we've got some positives, and also good data as well.

“So we keep on continuing what we've done. Obviously not enough yet.

“But I know lots of things have to change next year. And hopefully, that will give us a step forward."

Be part of Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Vasseur: Strategy gamble not reason Ferrari lost second in F1 Abu Dhabi GP
Next article F1's Abu Dhabi post-season test: Who is driving and more

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe