F1's Legends of Tomorrow - Part 2: Yuki Tsunoda
This week, I make my case for why Tsunoda deserves a seat on the F1 grid.
The 20 year old Japanese driver only began racing professionally back in 2016 - a relatively late bloomer for those in the Formula 1 racing world. Despite this though, I think that Yuki has what it takes to join the ranks of F1 and be a formidable force within the sport. Let me tell you why.
Yuki started competing in the Formula 4 Japanese Championship in 2016 and did so for three straight seasons. He came sixteenth first time around before jumping up to third at the end of his second season and by the end of his third season in 2018, he was crowned F4 Japanese Champion. As a result of that and being a member of Honda Formula Dream Project Driver program, Red Bull signed him up as one of the drivers for their Junior Team.
In 2019, he entered Formula 3, coming ninth overall with three podiums to his name, including one win. Then for this year, he made the leap up into Formula 2 where he drives for Carlin. With half the season done already, Yuki has already matched his record of podiums across a season including a race win which he got back at Silverstone a few weeks ago. His win there demonstrated why he's an underrated driver.
Yuki stuck close to the back of Schumacher and Shwartzman, lining them both up for an overtake but remained far away enough to avoid colliding with them in case something went wrong. Since he retired from the first sprint race in Silverstone, he's finished in the top six at every race with two fourth places among those. If there had been an extra couple of laps to those last two races, I think we'd have seen him on the podium again. He currently sits in fourth place in the Championship and whilst I don't think he'll win the Formula 2 Championship this year, he just might in 2021.
Furthermore, with the ties that Carlin have to Red Bull Racing (alongside Yuki's status as a Red Bull Junior Team Driver) I'd be surprised if we didn't see Yuki taking one of the seats at Alpha Tauri for 2022. The game of musical chairs has gone on there long enough between Albon, Gasly and Kvyat and I think that at least one of them will jump ship to a non-Red Bull team for the 2022 season - be they fired or leave of their own free will. Red Bull likes to say it develops young talent and has proved that case. But with the current rut they find themselves in, Tsunoda may be the perfect answer to change things up a bit.
Tsunoda would be the first Japanese driver since Kamui Kobayashi was in Formula 1 back in 2014. The Japanese are already big fans of F1 but imagine how excited they would be to have a Japanese driver on the grid again - and in a car that can fight for top ten finishes (maybe higher depending on how effective the new regulations are).
For a driver that's not been racing for that long, Yuki has shown a lot of promise and has some sneaky driving skills about him that keep him in contention to maximise during a race whenever an opportunity presents itself. With another season in F2 and some practise sessions in F1 with either Red Bull or Alpha Tauri, I think he'll be ready to take on the challenge of Formula 1.
What do you think? Is Yuki an F1 star of tomorrow? Let me know in the comments below.