Yuki Tsunoda says his Formula 1 debut featured an emotional moment as he overtook Fernando Alonso on his way to ninth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The AlphaTauri rookie has impressed in his limited track time so far this season, but started from 13th after a poor lap in Q2 on Saturday. After a cautious start he climbed through the field to secure ninth place on the final lap — overtaking Lance Stroll — but it was a pass on Alonso that stood out for him during the race.
“I’m really happy with that, I really enjoyed this race weekend from qualifying, especially Q1,” Tsunoda said. “In Q2 I had a bit of a struggle with the medium tire — I couldn’t feel I was getting any grip from it — but in the race there were a lot of positive things, especially overtaking a lot of cars, good learnings.
“It was a bit emotional when I passed Fernando. Last time I saw him, 12 or 13 years ago, when I was 7 or 8 years old!
“So, into Turn 1, I just trusted Fernando’s skills and just launched it — you know, like a rookie. I felt a bit sorry about it, but I just launched it from pretty far away, so there were a few emotional things. Of course it’s not the same car but I was happy for that.”
When you end your country's long wait for an F1 points finish in your very first race 👀🇯🇵
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 28, 2021
Tsunoda says the emotion comes from the importance of Alonso to his father, and says he used the time near the double world champion on track to improve his own driving.
“My father is quite a big Fernando fan, especially his driving style. My father likes his driving. The first time my dad saw Fernando was at Suzuka and he said his acceleration from the last corner is the best of any driver on the grid. So, of course, I also followed Fernando.
“I drove with him a couple of laps and I learned from him how he managed the tires on the corners, how he was driving every corner. After I passed him, I tried to copy his driving and in a couple of corners were better from my car as well. Hopefully I don’t have to drive against him the next time — I want to be further ahead to start. The cars are different; the things I learn from him will be big for the future.”