Yuki Tsunoda finally discovers his zen as Red Bull Japanese GP audition awaits

The Japanese RB driver goes into his home race knowing there is a spot available at parent team Red Bull at the end of the season

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Yuki Tsunoda heads into his home race at the Formula 1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix brimming with confidence, knowing that he is currently faster than his Visa Cash App RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. The only question that remains unanswered is whether his performances will be enough to convince Red Bull to promote him next year.

The 23-year-old arrived at the Suzuka circuit with a sense of calm, aided by his stellar drive in Australia to secure seventh place – his best race finish since the Emilia Romagna GP in 2022. His six-point haul will be crucial for RB as a platform to build on for the rest of the season as it gives a realistic insight into what the team can truly achieve.

“So far it’s [been] very consistent for us. At the last three tracks, we are consistently performing well, around P10 and feeling confident,” Tsunoda said, speaking to the press in Japan.

“We had a bit of an upgrade as well, so hopefully that works well, but these upgrades are probably more towards the other tracks, so I’m not sure it will work massively well. But we’re still feeling optimistic and points will be the main target.”

Yuki Tsunoda looks on in the paddock at the 2024 Australian GP | Peter Fox / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Yuki Tsunoda looks on in the paddock at the 2024 Australian GP | Peter Fox / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

There is an air of calm – or zen, to use the Japanese expression – about Tsunoda this year. Aside from his bizarre clash with Ricciardo after the Bahrain GP, the days of the hot-headed youngster issuing expletive-filled blasts towards his engineers on the radio are long gone.

It was probably about time, too. After all, Tsunoda is now into his fourth season in F1 and can no longer be considered an inexperienced driver. He has his sights set on taking one of the seats at Red Bull next year, with Sergio Perez yet to secure a drive beyond the end of this season and Max Verstappen potentially moving to Mercedes in 2025.

Tsunoda finds his inner peace

For that, Tsunoda needs to display a cool head – one that is capable of leading a team when times are tough – and he thinks he has finally found a way to calm himself down.

“I don’t shout so much over the radio anymore,” Tsunoda said, speaking to the Japanese media. “I didn’t think shouting caused me to lose concentration, but in Bahrain I felt that I overdid it a little bit, so I started to consciously try to improve my concentration in a more professional manner.

“I started to think that I need to show that I’m growing as a driver. I want to grow even more and become a top driver and aim for the championship, so I keep that in mind when I press the button on the radio. It has become like that.”

There would be no better place to show Red Bull what he is capable of by accumulating more points at his home race, a track where he claims he driven around for “10,000 laps” after his stint in Formula 4.

His only previous race starts here in F1 have seen him come home in 12th and 13th, and a repeat of that would not be enough to convince Helmut Marko he should be part of the conversation for a seat, given that the Austrian veteran is reportedly unconvinced by his ability.

Helmut Marko reportedly doesn’t rate Tsunoda. | Dan Mullan / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

But even the 80-year-old advisor couldn’t help but praise Tsunoda’s change in demeanour after the Australian GP: “His problems were a lack of control, outbursts and a tendency to make mistakes. All of that has gone this season,” Marko said.

If Red Bull isn’t an option in 2025, there may be another seat available. Many expect Fernando Alonso to leave Aston Martin for one of Mercedes or Red Bull, and that could open the door to Tsunoda joining the team as Honda prepares to switch its engine supply to Aston Martin for 2026.

Having a Japanese driver in the team would go some way to keeping Honda happy, but Tsunoda first needs to prove that his P7 in Australia can be considered the new norm, rather than a one-off, in front of Suzuka’s cherry blossom trees.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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