Tsunoda ends year on career-high P4 after last-lap pass on Bottas
Yuki Tsunoda has taken his fair share of criticism in his rookie season, but on Sunday in Abu Dhabi he showed exactly why AlphaTauri have opted to retain him for 2022. The Japanese youngster came from eighth on the grid to finish fourth, with an overtake on Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas on the very last lap.
On Saturday, Tsunoda out-qualified his highly-rated team mate Pierre Gasly for the first time this year – as well as being one of only three drivers to make it through Q2 on medium tyres – and he followed that up with a superb race performance and the best result of his Formula 1 career to date.
“I’m so happy,” said Tsunoda, who scored more points today than in his last 13 Grands Prix combined. “I think overall this week the pace was really good. Also the race pace, I didn’t expect it to be that good to be honest.”
Tsunoda used that pace – and his newer soft tyres – to good effect following the final-lap restart, first making his way through traffic and then diving past Bottas in the closing corners of the Yas Marina event.
“In the end I managed to have Bottas, so quite happy,” he added. “I had a little bit of a mistake in the straight before Turn 9. Maybe I could have passed but it was all so tight – this is the next step, but a good way to finish the year.
“Also, for the next season, I’m happy with this week: the confidence comes back – a long journey that this confidence comes back, but in the end I managed to get a best result of the year, so I’m just happy.”
Tsunoda wasn’t the only happy driver at AlphaTauri, with Gasly battling back from his P12 grid slot to follow his team mate home in fifth place. It meant the best result of the year for the Italian squad, with a total haul of 22 points, and an outstanding P9 in the drivers’ championship for the Frenchman with 110 points.
“I don’t think we could have done much more than that,” commented Gasly. “It’s just way better than we expected and you know there are always areas to improve, that we’re going to work on for next year, but overall it’s been an incredible season.”