2021 F1 driver rankings #19: Yuki Tsunoda

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Yuki Tsunoda bookended his first Formula 1 campaign with the kind of performances which made it obvious why AlphaTauri have kept the faith in their latest newcomer.

Yuki TsunodaBeat team mate in qualifying1/20Beat team mate in race3/16Races finished18/22Laps spent ahead of team mate185/963Qualifying margin+0.53sPoints32

But in between his points-scoring F1 debut in Bahrain, and signing off with a career-best fourth place in Abu Dhabi, there were many moments in which the team’s patience must have been tested by the Formula 2 graduate.

The number 22 AT02 crunched the barriers in qualifying at Imola and Paul Ricard in Q1, and again in Baku, though on that occasion he had reached Q3 for the first time. In total Tsunoda dropped out in Q1 – something which never happened to his team mate – eight times.

The aggravation this caused him early in the season was plain to see, notably at Circuit de Catalunya where he was critical of his car after failing to reach Q2. His frustrations tended to boil over on the radio.

Tsunoda came down with a bump after early Bahrain highHis season began to improve later in the year with the guidance of one of his predecessors at the team, Alexander Albon. When the stars aligned, Tsunoda made occasional forays into the points. That qualifying effort in Baku led to seventh at the flag, and he capitalised on a day of retirements in Hungary to follow Gasly home in sixth place, despite a time-sapping spin.

But the regularity with which Gasly collected pointed reflected badly on Tsunoda. No driver took a smaller percentage of their team’s points haul. To be fair, no other driver was a rookie paired with an experienced racer, but we can only assess Tsunoda on the basis of the available results.

These might have been better without a few costly errors in races. He collected penalties for crossing the pit lane entry line in the Austrian Grand Prix (which was somewhat peculiar, as he’d raced on the track a week earlier) and spun at Istanbul after exhausting his tyres trying to keep Lewis Hamilton behind in the early stages.

As Tsunoda’s qualifying performances improved over the latter races,…

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