Scuderia Alpha Tauri have announced that ex Toyota Racing Series driver Yuki Tsunoda will partner Pierre Gasly during the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Watching Yuki Tsunoda compete in the 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series last January, one wouldn’t have expected such an announcement less than 12 months later.
He won the second race of the series at the opening round at Highlands Motorsport Park, stood on the podium another two times but then seemed to fade from the front of the field. He was no stand-out driver that we expected but we have to give him credit for being a quiet achiever, finishing fourth overall. He finished every race, 13/15-times in the top ten.
After winning the F4 Japanese Championship in 2018, Tsunoda moved to Europe the following year to compete in the newly-formed FIA Formula 3 Championship, ending the season in ninth position with three podiums and a win.
He graduated to the FIA Formula 2 Championship for 2020 and enjoyed a successful season, with seven podiums, two Feature Race victories and a Sprint Race win. Again, no stand-out, but quietly going about his business amassing points.
Tsunoda is part of both the Red Bull Junior Team and the Honda’s Young Driver Programme and finished third in this year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship driving for Carlin. That result means the 20-year-old from Kanagawa, Japan, qualified for a Formula 1 Super License.
He recently covered 300 kilometres in a 2018 Formula 1 car during a test at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit in Imola, as well as driving for Scuderia AlphaTauri at the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi on 15 December.
The last time a Japanese driver raced in Formula 1 was when Kamui Kobayashi took part in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Kudos to Yuki for his achievement. It shows that for a driver, the leap from TRS to F1 can be quite short.