Yuki Tsunoda admits he feared for his seat in Formula 1 after having an inconsistent first half of the season that included a number of crashes.
The Japanese rookie impressed on his debut for AlphaTauri in Bahrain, but followed that with a costly crash in qualifying at Imola. There have been further errors, including crashes in France and Hungary, but Tsunoda’s potential has led to his being retained for another season alongside Pierre Gasly – a development that Tsunoda admitted he is not taking for granted.
“The first half of the season was quite inconsistent, so I was a bit surprised I’ll be staying for next year,” Tsunoda said. “First of all thanks to the team, and I’m really excited again for this opportunity next year. Just for this year, I will learn as much as possible.
“(Surprised) because I just keep crashing and (cost) lots of money for the team… It’s not a good way to end the first half of the season – especially in Hungary; I went onto the wall in FP1 and ruined the whole session, almost two sessions.
“I got told by Franz (Tost) and Helmut (Marko) that I need a more consistent result for driving and more discipline in the sessions. I couldn’t improve fully in the first half of the season. Also I was able to score points, but Hungary was a bit lucky. So it was mixed feelings, sometimes doing well and sometimes not. So that’s why I would say it was surprising.”
Tsunoda believes his spectacular debut didn’t help matters as it lulled him into a false sense of security, and he has since struggled to reach those heights.
“After the first race… I didn’t know what was going to happen in a Formula 1 race, and I just fully sent it almost every session, and at that point I felt really good, was controlling the car quite well, and for me I was feeling very well,” he said.
“I think from Imola, especially after qualifying, I maybe lost a little bit of confidence or something like that, and started to build it again. After that I kept doing mistakes every time, so had to reset, every time rebuild confidence, and that makes it a bit of a struggle.
“I didn’t expect to find it that difficult in Formula 1, because even in junior categories, if I had a massive snap or went into the wall, I never lost this much confidence. So that’s one main issue, and that’s why I’m building up and trying to have more consistent laps and consistent sessions.
“And also I think at the beginning of the season my expectation was too high, so the first race went well, but after that it was getting confusing. It was confusing each race week, and that (can create) a bad spiral. So I think now for me it’s OK, like the last three races I was maybe not performing well in qualifying, but I started to learn more about the car. Now it’s OK, and going well, I think.”