In a year where AlphaTauri became race winners as Pierre Gasly won the Italian Grand Prix, they have decided to invest in their future as they signed Formula 2 Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda for the 2021 season.
“I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr. Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe,” said Tsunoda. “I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year. I realize that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them too.”
Tsunoda will become the first driver born in the 2000s to drive in Formula 1. He is backed by Honda, the engine manufacturers for the team in 2021, and will partner with Gasly. As a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, Tsunoda has shot his way through the ranks to make it to F1. He finished third in the F4 Japanese Championship in 2017 and won the series the following year. In 2019, he finished fourth in the Euroformula Open Championship and ninth in the Formula 3 Championship, which was good enough to earn him a spot with Carlin in F2. In F2, he finished third in the driver standings with three race wins, seven podiums, four poles and three fastest laps of the race.
“Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team,” said Franz Tost, AlphaTauri Team Principal. “Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding. During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback. In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps. At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula One.”
He will replace Daniil Kvyat, who has been in and out with the team for the last few years, totaling three different stints with the team. He joined then Toro Rosso in 2014 before racing for Red Bull from 2015-16.
Midway through 2016, Max Verstappen replaced Kvyat at the team, sending him back to Toro Rosso until 2017. Kvyat came back to the team for the 2019 and 2020 season after spending 2018 as Ferrari’s reserve driver. Kvyat will be without a ride for the 2021 season, meaning he will look to be a reserve driver for a team next season as he looks to rejoin the starting grid in 2022. He finished 2020 14th in the driver standings with 32 points, but qualified in the top 10 in four of the last five races. He currently has three career podiums and an average start and finish of 12.1.
This news also means that whoever does not get the second seat at Red Bull Racing next season between Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez will be without a ride in 2021 as the last possible alternative closed with the signing of Tsunoda.
All eyes are now on Christian Horner and Red Bull to decide between the two drivers.