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Tsunoda "forgot to enjoy" F1 while saving career in 2022

Yuki Tsunoda says he "forgot to enjoy" racing in Formula 1 last year due to the stress of earning a new contract with AlphaTauri.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Red Bull Content Pool

Tsunoda experienced a tough start to his 2021 maiden campaign marked by crashes and a lack of consistency, which prompted a mid-season change of approach and a move to Faenza to be closer to his Italian team.

The 23-year-old showed the necessary improvement to stay on board for 2022 but says that came at a cost as he opened up about the "contract stress" that made him suffer throughout last year while AlphaTauri's form took a downturn.

It took until late September for the Japanese driver to be confirmed for a third season with the team, which he now says had become a major distraction that sapped his enjoyment and impacted his performance.

"Obviously I was giving full effort, but when I look back, especially like the time [last year] when I didn't have a contract between Azerbaijan and Japan, for a long time I got distracted a lot," he revealed.

"At that moment I forgot to enjoy Formula 1. I just felt like I was driving for the team to get a contract, which shouldn't be like that.

"When I look back, when I was having good results in the first half of the season, I was actually enjoying the moment. This is what I felt is the most important thing.

"You don't want to think about it. I'm not driving for contracts, I'm driving to show my performances that are the best, because I'm in this position. I still believe I'm one of the best drivers and I want to show that and prove those things by results and by driving."

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Tsunoda says that realisation has allowed him to make a mental switch into the 2023 season, which is presenting to be another mammoth challenge for the underperforming outfit.

With experienced team-mate Pierre Gasly off to pastures new at Alpine, Tsunoda is now being looked at as a senior driver at the squad. But despite the added expectation he has now approached the year with a more relaxed mindset.

His results seem to reflect his new-found consistency, taking AlphaTauri's only points of the campaign so far with 10th-place finishes in Melbourne and Baku, crossing the line in 11th in the other three races.

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"I enjoy much more than what I was feeling in the last previous years, in my racing career," he explained. "I actually know how much racing means to me, and also how much Formula 1 means to me, which two years ago, I didn't feel as much as now.

"Every race last year I was feeling I could have done more, even in qualifying I felt those things and especially in your third year, anything can happen, and you keep doing like that, you lose the seat.

"So, I was kind of able to rethink about how much F1 and motorsport means to me. And thinking about that on a day off during the off-season, something changed."

"I saw a couple of documentaries and I don't want to be the guy having lots of regrets, that I didn't able to give full performance in Formula 1 and now I'm not there anymore. That mindset makes me stronger and now this is time to really change myself, on the professional side."

"I didn't even try to change, I just tried to be relaxed as much as possible. Be comfortable, as usual, but at the same time enjoy every race and give a good performance and full effort."

Additional reporting by Jake Boxall-Legge

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