BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB looks on in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Tsunoda: I was getting heating moments in my brain

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB looks on in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The biggest ‘out of the points’ headline grabbers, in the wake of a dull 2024 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, was the Yuki Tsunoda versus VCARB teammate Daniel Ricciardo, including a cooling down lap heated moment.

Running well out of the points during the second half of the race at Sakihir when Tsunoda got the pitwall call to allow Ricciardo through. The Japanese driver was not happy, and typically let it be known over the radio before allowing his Australian teammate to pass, albeit reluctantly.

After the race, Tusunoda showed his dissatisfaction by almost ramming Ricciardo’s car. Not the kind of thing rookie VCARB team principal Laurent Mekies needed on his plate, suggesting he neglected to read his drivers the rules of engagement.

Clearly contrite, appearing like a schoolboy in front of the headmaster during the F1 Drivers press conference in Jeddah on Wednesday, facing harsh questioning from the media panel Tsunoda explained: “We talked about it after the race with the whole team and we’re still unified and, you know, we’re on the same page now. We understand each other. So, yeah, I think that’s it really.”

Asked if the team orders sparked his frustration, Tsunoda replied: “At that moment, yes. But in the end, I understand what they’re saying. And yeah, I think that’s it. It obviously wasn’t an easy race in the end. So, I think that’s it, yeah.”

It wasn’t “it” as the questions persisted. Would he obey tea orders again in future? Tsunoda insisted: “Yeah. 100%. I think we were on a different strategy to Daniel. And he had new tyres. Well, he had Soft tyres. And I was fighting with Kevin. So obviously, he had more free air and he had more pace. And I think probably the team thought Daniel had more pace and there’s more chance to overtake Kevin. So they asked me to swap the position.”

Tsunoda: Yeah, in the moment I was a bit heated.

Ricciardo on Tsunoda shenanigans: A bit of immaturity

“I was quite getting heating moments in my brain. But yeah, I still, in the end, let him through, probably a lap later or half a lap later. So probably that was the thing. So in the end, the team thought they had more chance, and I respect that, yeah,” explained the 23-year-old driver from Japan.

VCARB remains the Red Bull junior team, to pave the way for young talent to float to the Red Bull senior team where Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez do their business. Thus Ricciardo or Tsunoda are top of the pecking order for a seat with the World Champions should either of their current drivers depart or be unavailable.

Ricciardo makes no bones about the fact that he sees his renaissance at VCARB is only marking time for his ride alongside Verstappen again. But the Aussie is a shadow of his former self, the Dan of 2014 to 2016 has not been seen since around then. He will be destroyed by Max.

Also in contention, should RBR pick from their ‘farm’ of drivers, of course, is Tsunoda, but his temperament remains suspect as he embarks in his fourth season in the top flight. Next question: Why should Red Bull hire a driver who struggles to contain his emotions?

Tsunoda replied: “Yeah, definitely. It’s the thing I have to improve for sure. I mean, if I do those things again, for sure, it will be more issues. And I know these are things I have to improve mainly. So yeah, I’m working on it. And yes, I’ll improve. Need more than two steps, you know, not just like one step, for example.

“I have confidence that I can prove that. And it’s up to them if they want me or not, I think, for the rest of the things. But yeah, mainly focusing on those self-controllers. Other than that, I have pretty good confidence. I’m achieving most of it, and I just keep improving.”

Dan versus Yuki battle for the Red Bull seat should it become available

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 07: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB and Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB greet a fan on a phone link up prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 07, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

As for learning from veteran Ricciardo, Tsunoda reckoned:  “It’s still a learning process and probably what I showed in the Sunday was opposite, or Saturday, sorry. But I just keep reminding myself just before I jump into the car, ‘not pressing radio’, but also like, just those things.

“I think also they love to pick myself, to be honest, in those radio [messages]. Yeah, I mean, I’m not that shouting, you know, like that looks in the radio, on the TV. I don’t know, the more I say, it’s getting worse. So I’m just going to say I’ll just try my best to improve. And you’ll see it on the track from these races onwards,” promised Tsunoda.

Having only worked under Franz Tost in the past as an F1 driver, Tsunoda explained the difference with new VCARB boss Mekies in charge: “We have very good relationship and definitely already he is helping quite a lot with things to improve our team.

“Obviously, there are a bit of similarities between Franz and Laurent, that those two, really care about each person in the team and I think each person’s comments count and he tries to blend in all of it and make the best answer as much as possible. So I think there are similarities.

“Actually, I didn’t feel [it was] hard towards him, like, struggling to adapt to him or whatever. We just straight-up had a good relationship and I think we’re the whole team in the right way and right mood.”

Tsunoda: Laurent [Mekies] came straight into my room after the race

2024 Visa Cash App RB Car Launch in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) Laurent Mekies, Team Principal of Visa Cash App RB, Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB and Peter Bayer, CEO of Visa Cash App RB pose for a photo at the Visa Cash App RB Livery Launch Event Las Vegas on February 08, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Visa Cash App RB) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202402090077 // Usage for editorial use only //

“And yeah, it’s definitely not an easy job right now,” lamented Tsunoda. “Blend all the people in, to make sure everyone’s feeling comfortable, because there’s lots of new people coming. But so far, from what I saw in the team, everyone seems happy and very, very relaxed, comfortable to work together.”

In closing Tsunoda added: “Laurent [Mekies] came straight into my room after the race. And we talked about it quite long. Mainly understanding each person’s perspective, his side and my side. And yeah, he definitely made me much calmer when I was in the race.

“He definitely helped me to face the right direction. And I’m feeling reset now and yeah, just move on from there. So yeah, he’s kind of like that, it’s a bit similar to Franz, you know, if the same thing happens, Franz will come straight to my room immediately. So, yeah, feeling good,” concluded Tsunoda.

Should a drive become available in the Red Bull team, Ricciardo or Tsunoda will get the nod despite neither really showing any level near the benchmark that Verstappen sets and raises just about every weekend. Neither VCARB driver, on current form, will match Perez let alone Verstappen.

After one Grand Prix this season, StatsF1 show that Tsunoda leads Ricciardo 1-0 in Qualifying, while the Race score for Bahrain is scrapped as it was manipulated. Had VCARB let the race play out, Yuki would’ve probably beaten Dan.

(Quotes from Agnes Carlier in Jeddah)