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Tsunoda explains early DRS use at Bahrain F1 test

Yuki Tsunoda has explained the reason behind the early deployment of his drag reduction system during Formula 1’s pre-season testing in Bahrain that helped boost his pace.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT02

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT02

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The AlphaTauri driver impressed with the second fastest time of the test on the final day, putting in a lap that was just 0.093 seconds off Max Verstappen’s benchmark effort.

But eagle-eyed observers and rival teams had spotted that Tsunoda’s performance was lifted by him using his DRS much earlier than normal - handing him a lap time and straightline speed advantage over everyone else.

The official DRS zone in Bahrain starts 170 metres from the exit of the final corner, but Tsunoda had his rear wing open well before that.

Reflecting on why that was, Tsunoda said that the management of the DRS system changed on the final day – meaning it was active outside of the official zone.

So, while on the previous days him pushing the button early would not have activated DRS outside the zone, on the final day it did.

Speaking ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Tsunoda said: “Usually, even in testing, just like in the race, you shouldn’t be able to use it [DRS] without crossing the activation line. But in my case, I was able to use it, and I was thinking maybe the session was set up that way.

ANALYSIS: How Japan's first full-time F1 racer accelerated Tsunoda's rise

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT02

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT02

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

"I didn’t open it early just to get a time, I didn’t have any bad intentions. But if you are able to use it, you might as well use it, right? Also, I assumed it wasn’t just me and that other drivers were doing the same thing.

"Saying that, I only used it about 50m early, and in terms of lap time I think it was worth only two or three tenths. It wasn’t a big difference like six or seven tenths of a second. It doesn’t change the fact I used it early though.”

Even without the DRS boost, AlphaTauri had an encouraging test, with its new AT02 showing itself to be quick and reliable over the three days.

But Tsunoda thinks the car could actually be too well balanced, which makes it hard to get the front turned in as aggressively as he would like.

"In terms of whether [the car] is easy or hard to drive, the AT02 is too stable and it can be difficult to turn properly,” he said.

“The rear grip is too strong, so it makes it hard to get the front turned in. So if you don’t turn in smoothly, the front tyres soon run out of grip and they slide. That’s why we have to turn so smoothly.

"With Verstappen, the car turns properly when the steering angle is big, doesn’t it? I think it’s good to have a car like that, and to some extent it’s easier to do a good time when you have some instability. There are some things like that, so I don’t know yet [the relative performance compared with the Red Bull]."

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