Twenty-year-old Yuki Tsunoda will step into the Red Bull junior squad beside 2020 race winner Pierre Gasly for the 2021 season, replacing long-term seat- filler Daniil Kvyat. Tsunoda snagged global attention by winning the Japanese Formula 4 championship in 2018, which then netted him the support from Honda he needed to rise through Formula 3 in 2019 and Formula 2 this year. In F2 he won a trio of races in 2020, taking home third place in the championship points with the Carlin squad.
The Scuderia Alpha Tauri team, which currently runs Honda engines, will absorb the young Japanese driver and attempt to capitalize on his F2 talents in Formula 1.
Said Tsunoda of his new position: “Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in F1, so I am very happy with this news. 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.
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 realise 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.”
In the 2020 season, Pierre Gasly outscored Kvyat, his Russian teammate, 75 to 32. He also managed to find himself in the points across 10 grands prix, while Kvyat only managed seven. The hope, obviously, is that Tsunoda will be able to match, or perhaps even exceed, Gasly’s performance in 2021. The team is perennially in the mid-rear of the pack, but can occasionally pull off moments of brilliance.
This marks the third time that Kvyat has been pushed out of the Faenza-based F1 team operated by the energy beverage giant. He first joined the team in 2014 before being promoted to the full-flavor Red Bull team in 2015 when Sebastian Vettel left for Ferrari. Three races into the 2016 season he was demoted back to the junior squad in deference to current team leader Max Verstappen. In 2017 he was kicked aside midseason for Pierre Gasly to step on board.
After sitting out the 2018 season, Kvyat was again hired by Toro Rosso for the 2019 season when former Porsche ace Brendan Hartley’s results didn’t pan out. On Wednesday, the team parted ways with Daniil for the third and likely final time.
With the second Scuderia Alpha Tauri seat finally secured, there are only two seats left unsigned on the 2021 grid (unless Haas decides to ditch Mazepin). The first of those is Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes seat, which is probably just a matter of dollars and sense. The other seat left undecided is Alex Albon’s in the Red Bull squad. It’s possible that there will still be some shuffling left to do in the team with wings.