Discovering Yuki Tsunoda, the Japanese from Faenza: “How many sacrifices to get to F1. At least here the pizza is to scream, I train more”

The feeling on the track has been rediscovered. And after reconfirmation as an official driver AlphaTauri also for the 2023Now Yuki Tsunoda can give us peacefully on the track. Doing it in his Suzuka, where this Sunday we run and Verstappen could become champion for the second time in his career. On the track in which Tsunoda grew up with the cars of F4, dreaming of one day racing in front of the fans with an F1. He, Japanese of Sagamihara (an hour from the center of Tokyo), who sacrificed adolescent entertainment for a four-wheeled dream. Today resident in Faenzaarrived in 2021 from England at the behest of his team principal, Franz Toast. Among the green hills of Emilia, the 22-year-old has regained the confidence he had in Formula 2after too many impetuous incidents committed last World Cup.

Getting to F1 was one of his dreams, but how many sacrifices did he have to make to race there?
A lot, it is never easy for us Japanese to become F1 drivers. I started with the local formula series in 2016, I was already two years older than my European colleagues. But the categories there are very different, both in terms of scores and as racing cars. It must also be said that here in Europe there are more tracks where you can train and grow better. To win the Super license, then, we have to compete here. It is not easy, as is studying and speaking English for someone from my country, who speaks in letters and not in letters. So I am very happy to be able to speak an international language and drive in F1, as I am still doing today.

And his Japan sees little, living in Italy …
Very little, my life is made up of many sacrifices. Before I was in England, now I live in Faenza. I am trying to learn the habits here as well as possible, in order to have an ever better European life. In the beginning it wasn’t easy for the food either, as I love eating sushi. But the pizza here is to scream, quite the opposite of what I ate in Italian restaurants in Japan. Italy is definitely closer to my culture than when I lived in Milton Keynes (the city where Red Bull, which controls the AlphaTauri team, is based. ed).

He arrived in Faenza in 2021, at the behest of his team principal Franz Tost. He wanted her here to find her stability, lost for part of the 2021 World Cup after too many accidents on the track. What happened then?
I thought driving an F1 was easier, as I knew how to drive an F2 car. I was using the same approach, and when I hit the wall at Imola (during qualifying in last year’s second GP, ed) I thought it was an isolated episode. I said to myself ‘Ok, I’ll refer to the next one’. Instead all the accidents have completely disheartened me, I have a difficult past. I had to return to my debut in Bahrain (when he scored points with ninth place), so I came to Italy. In the end, 2021 was a good season, where I finished best with fourth place in Abu Dhabi. But I’ve never experienced one with so many ups and downs.

Was something wrong also in terms of preparation?
Yes, even in that. Right after training I would go home and just think about playing with the PS5. Even on a physical level I was not the same as today, I gained a certain strength. When race weekends came, I was always in a rush before. I only started preparing myself when it was too late. Since I have been in Italy, my training habits have changed. This also had a positive effect on my performance.

She is a great lover of role-playing games. Do you still play a lot with the Playstation?
I still play with it, yes, but a little less than before. It helps me reduce stress, and then I can spend time with my friends over there, who I never see and in Japan they lead a completely different life from mine. It helps me do things right.

Does your childhood tell us about it?
I am one of many who grew up on ‘bread and engines’. As a child, most of my time was not spent with friends, but on the track. I was training with karts, assisted by mom Minako and dad Nobuaki (former motorcycle driver, he participated in a series of local Japanese races, ed). He was my mechanic until I was 14-15. On Sunday then came the joy of the race, a little less when I had to go home by midnight on the same day, because school started again on Monday. I must say that I was not a great student, I preferred speed (laughs, ed).

Speaking of speed, what is it for you?
The essential and fundamental component of my life. I have always wanted to be snappy, to minimize the times when I do certain things. Now I also do it when I pack my bags.

Tost himself said in 2021 that she must “control the emotions on the track more”. What type is your team principal?
Franz told me last year to spend my time regaining that confidence I had lost with the car. To focus more on my driving and less on distractions. He is a strong type, who tells you things as they are.

This year Helmut Marko, a Red Bull councilor, said he had entrusted her with a psychotherapist to control “her overheated brain”. How did you accept this decision?
It wasn’t a big surprise for me, I had already been dating a psychotherapist since Carlin in F2 (he ran there in 2020, finishing third in the Drivers’ standings, ed). From this year, however, I have a new mental coach, made available by Red Bull, to whom I can talk about my problems. It’s nice that Helmut and Red Bull take an interest in me.

Do you think you can better control your emotions now, after starting this path?
Yes, this year I feel more mature, less impetuous. I always try not to exceed the limit, but to reach it. Now I know better control myself when I exchange radio messages on the track with my box, when I have to give my feedback.

He will also drive in F1 in 2023 after his renewal with the AlphaTauri, what would his dream be in the future?
Becoming F1 World Champion. But in the meantime I try to fly low: first I aim to improve myself on the track.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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