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Mekies: Looking for Tsunoda to do that next step

Mekies: Looking for Tsunoda to do that next step

Mekies: Looking for Tsunoda to do that next step

Laurent Mekies, the RB Formula 1 team boss, revealed that the team is hoping their driver Yuki Tsunoda will continue developing, showing that he could take a next step in 2024.

Tsunoda joined the RB back in 2021, when the team was still called Scuderia AlphaTauri, and while he showed some flashes of speed, his early performance were erratic and marred with driving errors.

But the Faenza squad, in addition to the powers that be at Red Bull, have kept their faith in the Japanese driver who is now on his fourth season with team that now also have a new name.

Tsunoda had several teammates during his time with RB, Pierre Gasly in 2021 and 2022, then Nyck de Vries for half of the 2023 F1 season, after which Daniel Ricciardo joined. When Ricciardo broke his hand in Zandvoort last year, Liam Lawson was Tsunoda’s teammate for five races, but was sacked despite impressing in favor of the Australian.

It can hardly be said that RB had a decent benchmark among Tsunoda’s various teammates that allowed them to properly evaluate his performance and development.

However Mekies claims having Ricciardo in the other car changes that, a peculiar statement given the Honey Badger’s underwhelming performances so far in 2024 in particular, and since his return in general.

There is speed still to come from Tsunoda

Speaking to F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, Mekies said: “It’s fantastic in the way we are evaluating Yuki, the way we are trying to grow Yuki, to have Daniel with him.

“It gives a fantastic reference point and, therefore, for us, it’s as good as it gets to have the experience and the speed of Daniel, to have the raw speed and youth of Yuki.

“What we are looking for from Yuki is that he does that next step. The top guys, they make steps. They come and understand something more about the tyres, they will be able to go faster in given situations.

“The core feelings they have in the car, how they link what they feel in the car with what they exchange with their engineers, how deep the relationship they can build with the team is. If you have the bandwidth for that, your understanding of the car increases.

“If you have the capacity to utilize it when you’re driving then you will go faster. Yuki is growing this capacity year after year and this is why there is still speed to come.

“He has been surprising the F1 world every single year. He’s in the fourth year. Is he going to keep surprising? That’s the question we have to answer,” the Frenchman mused.

Ricciardo is buying into the RB project

As for Ricciardo, who seems to be under the Red Bull microscope to perform, Mekies reflected on working with the winner of eight grands prix.

He continued: “You see Daniel, you have the first couple of days of running with him and you see the race-winning guy, so I guess the Daniel we have now is the best Daniel we have seen.

“Of course, he has had a rough patch in the last few years but, ironically, it’s probably putting him now in the best mindset, in the best spirit, with the best energy.

“He has these incredible technical sensitivities. He’s buying into the project, he’s living RB with us, he’s proud of the colours, he’s pushing us with all the positives that we all know about him. I think, in the start of a project like that, having a guy like Daniel with us driving the car, it’s just a game changer.

“This has increased the attention levels that we have in making sure that we have the right conditions around him. We are very careful with him and he’s part of the process.

“He’s driving that process in making sure that we put him in the right spot in the car, outside of the car, and how we manage his energy,” Mekies concluded.

Tsunoda has outqualified Ricciardo so far in the first two races of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.