Honda protégé Yuki Tsunoda has finally been announced as one of AlphaTauri’s drivers for the 2021 Formula 1 season.
The Toyota Racing Series graduate replaces the outgoing Daniil Kvyat for next season.
The 20-year-old kicked off his 2020 campaign with M2 Motorsport in the New Zealand category where he finished fourth in the championship.
He then went on clinch third in the Formula 2 driver’s standings in his rookie year, just one point behind second-place Callum Ilott and 15 adrift of eventual champion Mick Schumacher.
He experienced his first taste of F1 in a 2018 Toro Rosso at Imola last month, and for AlphaTauri in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi. He set 123 laps and set the fifth-fastest time of the day.
So far, Tsunoda is the fourth driver on the 2021 grid to have competed in the TRS category, with Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi already confirmed for their respective teams.
“Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now, and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team,” AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost said. “Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding.
“During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback. In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps.
“At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1.”
Despite a relatively tamed TRS season, Tsunoda starred in his maiden F2 tilt. He made only a few driver errors across the year, smoothing the rough edges of his hot-headed junior career.
“Yuki learned that races are not won in the first turn or in the first round,” said Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
“He learned a lot, and whenever it is important, he has amazing moves for overtaking, and he proved so in the last two Formula 2 races. This means he has an amazing speed. He is a small but smart driver.
“And beside his talent, being a good driver, he also has a good charisma which will influence the whole Formula 1, but of course also Japan.”
Tsunoda will become just the 18th Japanese F1 driver and the first to race at the top level since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.
“Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in F1, so I am very happy with this news,” said Tsunoda.
“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.”