Yuki Tsunoda says he and AlphaTauri have reassessed their targets for the season after a difficult 2022 campaign.
Having ended his rookie season by helping AlphaTauri reach sixth in the 2021 Constructors’ Championship, Tsunoda would have had every expectation that he might kick on in 2022.
But the reality has been far from that. The Japanese driver is on 11 points, just under a third of what he scored in 2021, and has failed to finish in the top 10 since the sixth race of the season.
It is not Tsunoda alone that is struggling and the experienced Pierre Gasly is only on 22 points so far this campaign, suggesting the problems lie with the car rather than the drivers.
Tsunoda admitted the team have had to lower their expectations and said a P7 finish would be a realistic objective.
“Realistically, if we can’t bring big updates to the following races, we can’t achieve the P5 in the teams’ championship that we were targeting. P7 would be good,” Tsunoda told Give Me Sport.
“I think we’ll see. I don’t think it will be a great season like last year and I don’t think we’ll change the situation in one race. But I think this is still an important season for us in terms of next year as well.
“So we’ll keep going, keep trying anything, understand about the car as much as possible and have an idea to have a good start next year.”
Having retired three times in the last eight races, another goal of the 22-year-old is to have at least four clean race weeks in the remaining grands prix.
“We are facing currently a difficult time but actually, this is a good opportunity to improve ourselves in general,” said Tsunoda. “I think I just want to have a smile at the end of the race! And we can focus for next year as well.
“It’s been nice [since the summer break] I will say so far. I’ve been able to continue the progress I had done in the first half of the season every race week and I aim to continue that progress. At Spa and in the Netherlands the performance was quite good, I felt confident straight away and on the long runs as well there was quite good pace.
“So I’m quite happy with the performance so far and also working with AlphaTauri. Like, right now we are not in the ideal situation and also with performance for sure, but I’m enjoying working with them and extracting the performance each race.”
Tsunoda’s future was confirmed this week when AlphaTauri announced he would be staying for 2023, something that is not yet certain about his team-mate Gasly.
Yuki Tsunoda faces new challenge with presumed absence of Pierre Gasly
With Pierre Gasly’s move to Alpine seemingly more likely by the day, AlphaTauri have started planning for his succession. While the focus will be on the other seat in the garage, the Frenchman’s move also provides a new challenge for Tsunoda.
In just his third season in F1, he will be asked to become the team’s de facto leader, something that seems certain considering the relative inexperience of the names currently linked with the soon-to-be vacant seat.
For a man whose rookie season was most remembered for expletive-laden outbursts over the team radio, it will be quite the test of his new-found maturity.
To his credit, 2022 has been different. Perhaps without the pressure that comes with a first season and a move to Italy which he found more to his tastes than Milton Keynes was, Tsunoda has looked more relaxed even if the occasional mistake is still there.
He will need to step it up another level if Gasly’s departure is confirmed as the team will be relying on him to show the new guy the ropes.