Red Bull and Honda junior Yuki Tsunoda admits he was surprised by how physical he found driving a Formula 1 car for the first time at Imola, and says he will have to work on his fitness before a likely FP1 run in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi.
Tsunoda was making his debut in F1 machinery at the venue of last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, driving a two-year-old AlphaTauri car with a Honda power unit. After completing more than the required 300km to help him gain a Super License, Tsunoda – who had both wet and dry conditions – says the braking performance and strain on his neck stood out on the opening day.
“It was easier for the driving, but also harder for the more physical aspects,” Tsunoda said. “I expected it to be a little bit less hard from a physical (perspective), especially the neck because I have quite a lot of confidence that I don’t get a tired neck. In my life, even in Formula 2 I don’t feel the neck much and my neck is pretty strong, but after I drove the Formula 1 car today it was pretty hard.
“It felt hard, especially in the braking zones, the braking performance, I always went (forwards) and I tried to avoid going like that but still the braking power is more than I expected. So I need to do lots of training until the next session or next event I drive Formula 1, to prepare a lot.”
Tsunoda is expected to replace Daniil Kvyat next season and is likely to get an FP1 outing at one of the final three rounds this year, but Formula 2 is racing on two of those weekends in Bahrain. The Japanese youngster admits it will be a tough test of his skills if he has to drive both cars on the same day, given the difference in performance between machinery.
“The power, after I went on throttle, you feel initially a big power from the engine which I don’t feel that much in Formula 2. I think that power is more than I expected. The first session was raining, but even in the rain there is really, really big performance when you initially went on throttle, even in wet conditions it was more than I felt in Formula 2 in dry conditions. So that was the biggest surprise for me today. And also the second thing for me was the braking performance in dry conditions was really big. Huge.
“If I drive Free Practice 1 in Bahrain, Formula 1, it’s going to be a very tight schedule. I need to adapt quickly to each car. There’s a big difference between F2 and F1. It’s going to be a challenging weekend. Also I have to put together all my experience from F2. It’s going to be a big challenge if I drive F1 FP1.”
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) November 4, 2020
Tsunoda needs a top-five finish in FIA Formula 2 to secure the required Super License points to race in F1, but says he is not feeling the pressure as he currently sits third in the standings with two rounds to go, both in Bahrain.
“The target was created at the beginning of the season, it doesn’t make much difference now. I’ve already prepared with that mentality since January, so I don’t feel much stress about that. I just have to focus for free practice in F2, and first corner and first braking zone, what I have to do. I have got to focus session by session, also lap by lap.”