Does Tsunoda have what it takes to lead AlphaTauri if Gasly leaves?

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AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost had for some time indicated that the aim was always to keep Tsunoda alongside Pierre Gasly, whose confirmation was given in June, pending Red Bull’s approval.

Tsunoda said a few weeks ago that his future depended on “things in the background” but that he was satisfied with his showings, even if the results were difficult to achieve this year. Tsunoda hasn’t scored a point since Spain, although AlphaTauri as a whole struggles more in the crowded midfield than 12 months ago.

As things stand, an unchanged Tsunoda and Gasly lineup is set at AlphaTauri for next year, but that could change. Alpine is known to have Gasly at the top of its shortlist to fill his second seat, and Red Bull is happy to sack him from its sister team – as long as a replacement is lined up and ready to go.

The plan to leave IndyCar at Colton Herta had to be shelved when the FIA ​​refused to give way to its super-licensing rules, which seemed to mean Gasly would sit. But after it emerged that Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko met with Nyck de Vries last weekend, it is clear that options are still being explored to replace Gasly and allow him to make the switch to Alpine.

Should Gasly leave, Tsunoda would be the veteran man and de facto team leader at AlphaTauri heading into 2023 – a big role for a driver often in the news for his temperament and clearly still developing.

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Yuki Tsunoda, Alpha Tauri

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

It’s one that Tsunoda admitted he might struggle to comply in the same way that Gasly does in the beginning.

“I wouldn’t expect to be able to perform right away or give the feedback to the team like Pierre,” he said at Zandvoort.

“But at the moment I am learning as much as possible from him. Still, there is a lot of space that I can learn from him. Currently we see it the same way, just develop the car as much as possible, to have a more consistent pace.” through the race week.”

Tsunoda’s development has come a long way, especially since Red Bull moved him from the UK to Italy midway through last season to keep him closer to the team. It was such an important move that it was even mentioned in AlphaTauri’s press release announcing it for 2023, noting its progression since then.

It was a good environment for Tsunoda to work in. AlphaTauri is a small team without the pressure of a Red Bull or any other front-running operation. He has a boss in Franz Tost who knows how to get the best out of your drivers. And in Gasly, he has had a teammate who has not only helped him improve his game, but also forged a friendly relationship off the track.

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“He probably took Formula 1 a bit more seriously and that was the right approach,” Gasly told TAUT in a pre-summer interview.

“From what he says, I’ve had an impact on that side to show him the kind of dedication and dedication that this sport required. This year we’ve worked as a team, where last year it was a little bit divided because he wasn’t had a lot of experience. He was still fairly new to the sport.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

Photo By: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“This year I think he has clear ideas and clearer feedback on what we really need to go faster so that we can work together to improve the package we have.”

It’s an advancement that has also been noted by AlphaTauri’s technical director Jody Egginton. “More things click now that he understands things,” he said of Tsunoda. “He also forms a better opinion about what he wants with the car. And that takes time, with every driver.”

We’ve seen the flashes of what he can do in F1. His impressive debut last year in Bahrain and late rise to fourth place in Abu Dhabi may be remarkable, but his performance has taken a step forward through 2022, even if it’s not reflected in the points tally.

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Imola is a weekend that will go under the radar from this year, but it worked its way from 16th on the grid to seventh at a track where overtaking is very difficult to find. The points gap with Gasly has also narrowed compared to last year. Gasly has 22 points on Tsunoda’s 11, but Yuki thinks the gap would be smaller without setbacks like in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

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The big challenge for Tsunoda will be to turn the potential into the kind of skills that could help him lead a team if Gasly were to leave. He’s won fans around the world for his outspoken nature – as Gasly puts it, “what goes into his head is out of his mouth a tenth of a second later” – but stepping up to lead AlphaTauri would be an important test to follow. see what the long-term future may hold for him within the Red Bull lineup.

Tost said in the press release that Tsunoda confirms for 2023 that he believes it will take three years for drivers to fully acclimate to life in F1. It means that next season there will be no excuses for Tsunoda not to utilize the undeniable talent he has, possibly as a team leader at Faenza.

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