Yuki Tsunoda admitted to mixed emotions after experiencing opposite extremes in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying.
The Japanese rookie, who arrived in F1 with a reputation much taller than his own diminutive stature, has been enduring a tough time of late.
After scoring points on his debut in Bahrain, the AlphaTauri driver has crashed on several occasions and was told by Red Bull’s driver development chief Helmut Marko to move to Italy to work more closely with the team.
There looked to be a distinct improvement in the 21-year-old’s fortunes as he produced some impressive qualifying pace in Baku, backing up a terrific performance from his team-mate, Pierre Gasly.
Ultimately, the duo have achieved two excellent grid positions – Gasly fourth and Tsunoda seventh, which is comfortably his highest in F1 having reached Q3 for the first time, rising one place after Lando Norris was penalised for a red-flag infringement.
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well that was intense! 🔥 @PierreGASLY and @yukitsunoda07 both take their best Quali result of the season 👊 #AzerbaijanGP 🇦🇿 pic.twitter.com/tY56akxqMU
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) June 5, 2021
But there was a big sting in the tail for Tsunoda. On his final flying lap, perhaps over-confident with things going well, he crashed into the wall and brought out the red flags which ended the session – also managing to distract Carlos Sainz, who followed him off the circuit.
Tsunoda said it was simply another of the driving errors that have begun to dog him.
“I was just pushing too much,” he told reporters afterwards. “I thought I could make it, stop enough before the corner, but I got a front lock and had no chance to make it.
“I’m okay – sorry for the team. I think the pace was there and it was a real shame for that.
“Mixed feelings – definitely the pace to be in a higher position. It was a real shame, but tomorrow is a new day.
“I think compared to Monaco it’s a bit easier to overtake, so hopefully [with] strategy and tyre management we can put it all together.”
AlphaTauri technical director Jonathan Eddolls said Tsunoda’s car would require some rebuilding work before the race.
“[Yuki’s car] has sustained damage to the front suspension from the impact,” said Eddolls.
“It’s part of the learning experience though and the rest of this weekend he has kept his head down, built up the pace and shown a very good performance.
“There’s some work to do on his car tonight and we’ll also work on preparing both drivers ahead of the race so we can aim to keep both cars in a points-scoring position.”
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