Tsunoda describes ‘emotional’ pass on hero Alonso – and what he learned from shadowing him
Yuki Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver ever to score points on their debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix, taking ninth place for AlphaTauri with a last-lap pass on Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. But it was an earlier move on Fernando Alonso that, according to Tsunoda, had made him feel “emotional” in the cockpit.
At the start of Lap 25 of 56, Tsunoda made a bold pass on returning two-time champion Fernando Alonso going into Turn 1, outbraking the Alpine having come from reasonably far back before slotting calmly into P11 and continuing on his way. But Tsunoda admitted that passing his father’s favourite F1 driver in his first Grand Prix had been a big moment for him.
“I got a bit of an emotional thing when I passed Fernando,” said Tsunoda. “My father is quite a big Fernando fan, especially his driving style – my father likes how he drives. I think first time my dad saw Fernando was in Suzuka and he said that at the last corner, his acceleration, he was the best driver on the grid.
“So in Turn 1, I just trusted Fernando’s skills and I just launched it like a rookie!” Tsunoda laughed. “I felt a bit sorry, because I really came from quite far away but it was definitely a pretty emotional thing. Of course it’s not the same car, but I was happy for that.”
Tsunoda was then quickly able to pull a gap on Alonso, before the Spaniard was eventually forced to retire with a brake issue – caused, Alpine claimed, by a sandwich wrapper getting stuck in his rear brake duct.
But Tsunoda said that the chance to watch an F1 great at close quarters in the build up to his pass on Alonso had given him valuable knowledge for his career going forward.
“I drove with [Fernando] for a couple of laps and definitely I learned from him how he was managing the tyres, how he drives every corner, and after I passed him, I just tried to copy how he was driving and for a couple of corners, it was better for my car as well,” said Tsunoda.
“Hopefully I don’t have to drive next time with him, because I want to be more forward to start – I don’t want to say that Fernando is bad, but the car situation is different!” added Tsunoda, who’d been frustrated at his failure to get into Q3 on Saturday, as he eventually started the race four places behind Alonso in P13. “But the things I learned from him were really big for the future.”