Let’s talk about Yuki Tsunoda: F1’s rising son who has left Ricciardo ‘driving for his career’


Yuki Tsunoda is in his fourth season in Formula One, yet he’s largely flown under the radar throughout his career.

That’s changed over the past six months or so since Daniel Ricciardo became his teammate midway through 2023, with his capabilities being reappraised alongside the once vaunted Australian.

Tsunoda finished seventh in Australia last weekend, registering RB’s first points for the season, in contrast to Ricciardo, who came home 12th following a disappointing qualifying, which saw him line up 18th after his fastest time was disallowed for exceeding track limits.

Yuki Tsunoda. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

It was a statement of intent at Ricciardo’s home race, yet it only served to reiterate that Tsunoda has enjoyed the Australian’s measure across their ten races together, which now sits at 6-4 in the former’s favour, with Tsunoda finishing inside the top ten four times to Ricciardo’s one.

The perception when Ricciardo joined what was AlphaTauri last season, was that the Australian was auditioning to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull as soon as this campaign, most likely for 2025.

Instead, Ricciardo is now driving for his career, whilst Tsunoda has enhanced his reputation to the degree that even if he isn’t considered for promotion to Red Bull, which is in itself an oddity considering the duration of his tenure at the Faenza based operation, then he’ll at least open the door to rival suitors who may have previously viewed him as no more than a seat warmer.

Ricciardo’s return was admittedly cruelled by the broken wrist he sustained in a practice crash in just his third weekend back, which sidelined him for five races, and perhaps issues related to this can at least partially explain his lack of pace, though Tsunoda has demonstrated his ability to extract the most from difficult cars.

The Japanese, who debuted in 2021, has earned a reputation for his fiery temper and being crash prone, though he’s developed as a leader since Pierre Gasly, who took Tsunoda under his wing across their two seasons as teammates, departed for Alpine at the conclusion of 2022.

Tsunoda’s underlying immaturity remained on display at the season curtain raiser in Bahrain, when he signalled his displeasure at being forced to defer to Ricciardo for 13th place due to differing strategies, skirting dangerously close to the Australian on the cool down lap.

Even so, Tsunoda handled Nyck de Vries last year after the Dutchman talked a big game prior to his full-time debut, only to be dismissed in favour of Ricciardo after ten rounds, who similarly struggled to hold a candle to Tsunoda.

Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda. (Photo by Peter Fox – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Only Liam Lawson, who deputised for Ricciardo whilst he was injured, looked at ease in the AT04, beating Tsunoda 2-1 in the races both finished. The New Zealander is viewed as a certainty to make his full-time debut in 2025, with many saying until recently that it would come at Tsunoda’s expense.

It’s too soon to decide whether Tsunoda is outdriving the car or Ricciardo is past his best. Whilst beating your teammate never does any harm, it might not be as beneficial as being paired with somebody who has the same, or more potential.

Lawson’s presence could be expedited pending Ricciardo’s fortunes across the next several races, which could ironically be beneficial to Tsunoda if he ever wants to prove his credentials for a seat at Red Bull.

Alluding to Tsunoda’s prospects of a Red Bull berth following his Melbourne heroics, long-time team advisor, Helmut Marko told Autosport that “he has to improve more before he can be considered in this direction.”

Despite not yet being on the grid, Lawson is seen as the natural long-term successor at Red Bull to Perez or even Max Verstappen should the Dutchman depart the team as a result of the power struggle which is yet to reach its’ conclusion.

If Tsunoda is passed up for a seat at Red Bull next year, you’d have to question his motives for sticking around at RB, a decision Gasly arrived at once it became clear that the door to the senior outfit, which ruthlessly demoted him after just half a season in 2019, wouldn’t be re-opening to him.

Honda, which currently supplies engines to both Red Bull teams, is switching to Aston Martin in line with the new regulations from 2026, and considering nationalistic ties to Tsunoda, he might have designs on a future with the Lawrence Stroll owned operation.

Whether he’d be in the equation for a seat there in 2025 if Fernando Alonso moves on is debatable with the likes of Carlos Sainz on the market, but the following year could align, the solitary reason to remain at RB for another twelve months.

Tsunoda isn’t yet 24, so he has age on his side at a time when many veterans remain on the grid and are producing similar results in their mid to late thirties, and on the basis of last season and the opening races of this one, he’s deserving of a drive beyond this campaign, even if it isn’t in the Red Bull orbit.

For someone who has been relatively anonymous despite becoming a mainstay, this is the year that decides what the next step is for Yuki Tsunoda.

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