"I'm not afraid to make mistakes," admits Tsunoda


When Yuki Tsunoda lines up on the grid in Bahrain, he will be the first Japanese driver to contest an F1 Grand Prix since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

However, despite carrying the hopes of his nation on his shoulders, the main pressure to succeed will come from within and in his determination to prove himself the 20-year-old admits that he isn't afraid to make mistakes along the way.

"I will be pushing hard right from the beginning to adapt to the car as much as possible," he says. "However, I'm not afraid to make mistakes... I will of course try and limit them, but they are inevitable at the beginning.

"I am confident I can learn from my mistakes though," he makes clear, "as I proved last year in Formula 2.

"I am really happy to have the support of Japanese fans, and I'm proud to be the one to bring another Japanese driver on the grid, after Kamui.

"As for the pressure, I put it on myself, so nothing changes in that regard for me... I want to push myself to succeed."

Since winning the Japanese F4 Championship in 2018, Tsunoda has, in successive seasons, the European F3 Championship and F2, finishing third in his rookie season.

"Every year I improve a bit," he says, "and I've managed to win in every category I have competed in. Those wins were not easy, and they built up my confidence.

"Even in Formula 3, I did not expect I would win, as this was my first time living in Europe and four of the tracks were completely new to me," he continues. "It was not easy because many of the drivers in Europe had a lot of experience at those tracks. I was focussing on adapting to the track, the team and the culture but finally I won in Monza in Formula 3 and Dr. Marko was happy with that. It led to me moving up to Formula 2.

"Last year for me was a season in which I made a big improvement in all aspects of my job. First of all, in terms of my driving but also in terms of my mentality and psychology regarding how I approached my racing.

"I think I improved a lot during Formula 2. It was a very successful season, one of the best in my racing career. At the start of the season, I already had a good pace and could compete with strong rivals, but I lacked consistency until the middle of the season. That meant I was unable to get good points in the early races.

"Then, from the mid-season on, I worked with a psychological trainer and we talked a lot about my racing... how I prepare for the race and my attitude during the race as well as other factors.

"That resulted in my mentality improving a lot. By the end of the season, it was not yet where I wanted to be, but had improved so much since the start of the season. My on-track results continued to get better.

"At the start of last year – during the rookie test for example – I struggled with tyre management compared to my teammates, however I have worked hard with the team and watched races from previous seasons to learn how to better manage this.

"The hard work we all put in paid off, as by the end of the year I had received the Pirelli award, which showed just how much progress I had made. I know the next step in my motorsport career won't be easy, but I can't wait."

Asked to describe the best and worst moments of his career, he admits: "The worst was in 2016, when I was doing the Honda Junior Driver Test and I came third.

"Normally Honda takes the first two drivers to move to Formula 4," he continued. "I had discussed the test with my father and had decided that if I did not get through, I would give up racing. But the person in charge was former F1 driver Satoru Nakajima. He was watching from the outside of the chicane and he recommended me to Honda and that's why I got a Formula 4 drive with Honda. So, it was down to him.

"The best moment was Monza in Formula 3 in 2019. I think I would not have been in F2 the following year without that win. It was my first win in Europe so I have many happy memories from that day."

Like most driver, Tsunoda credits his father with his success.

"My father was my mechanic until I was around 14 or 15 years old," he says. "I have to thank him for all the success I have so far, he has helped me to become a better driver.

"Braking was one thing he taught me the most, particularly how and when to brake. He taught me that braking is very important going into the corner and that can make the car rotate and if you can rotate the car more than others, you can apply the throttle again earlier than others. I practiced that a lot in karting. It gave me a lot of confidence and I still use what I learned even today."

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Published: 30/01/2021
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