Yuki Tsunoda stole the hearts and minds of everyone in Formula 1 when he burst on the seven at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, impressing all with a feisty ninth place on his debut but since then things have not gone according to his plan.
A star was born that weekend in Sakhir, and Tsunoda headed to Imola for round two of the 2021 F1 World Championship fired up for another good result. But in Italy, things did not go as expected, and he was dealt a harsh reality check: racing in the top flight was not as easy as he thought.
The sudden downturn caught the 21-year-old by surprise, and he said as much in the latest Beyond the Grid Podcast: “To be honest, yes, I think. Especially from Bahrain, I went really, really good, even having mistakes… having dropped to Q2, but still went well and got a point in the first race.
“I think from there, especially, I aimed my expectations quite high for the future. Especially Imola, the next race where I was even aiming for the top five. I think that means for sure I was aiming too high,” admitted Tsunoda.
Tsunoda disclosed that he was overambitious after his Bahrain experience, setting his sights high for the Emiglia Romagna Grand Prix weekend at Imola: “In qualifying, I tried to put an amazing lap, a dream lap. Especially in Q1 you don’t have to do that kind of stuff in Q1.
“My adrenaline and motivation were like that and I went into the wall. So I think at the beginning of the year, after Bahrain, my expectations were high and I was aiming too high,” added Tsunoda, F1’s youngest driver this season.
At Monaco, F1’s most challenging track Tsunoda made contact with the barriers during FP2 which did not go down well with Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko who was left fuming after the incident on Thursday.
The team’s driver boss, told reporters afterwards: “We told him a thousand times, it’s all about one thing in Monaco: making metres, making metres, making metres, he should really learn to show some discipline.”
Tsunoda gave his version of his Monte-Carlo adventure: “I think I didn’t push too much hard in entry, I just lost the grip in the end. A lot of degradation there I think and a couple of gusts of wind, I lost completely the rear between Turns 15 and 16, and I just had to finish the session.
“I had two soft [tyre sets] for Saturday so I think it’s not the worst-case or the end of the world. Just, I have to prepare more for qualifying and try to put it all together.”
Unlike fellow 2021 F1 rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, who have only themselves to measure up against at Haas, Tsunoda has nowhere to hide as he is paired with AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly, a Grand Prix winner and arguably in the best form of his career.
For now, it is no contest as the more experienced Frenchman punches well above his weight in the AlphaTauri and is the benchmark Tsunoda’s minders will want him to at least match if not beat, sooner rather than later.