Tsunoda 'making very big steps' as RB engineers left impressed by his progress in 2024

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive on

RB‘s engineers believe Yuki Tsunoda has made significant progress in 2024 as team boss Laurent Mekies praised the racer for how he has been “stepping up”.

With his home race in Japan next up, Tsunoda scored his first points of the year with an assured drive to eighth at the flag in Australia – a result that became P7 following Fernando Alonso’s post-race penalty. The 23-year-old has displayed visible progress with his early performances in 2024 and will hope to continue that momentum, particularly on the track at Suzuka.

READ MORE: Traffic lights, tacos and moustaches – Getting to know the real Yuki Tsunoda

But there’s also the added motivation provided by the driver market as a potential seat could be up for grabs at Red Bull, while Liam Lawson provides an added threat to driver spots within the Red Bull stable after performing so well in 2023 as a stand-in for Daniel Ricciardo.

However, it is Tsunoda gathering plaudits in the here and now for his on-track exploits, with Mekies full of praise for what he was able to achieve in Melbourne.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01

Tsunoda scored his first points in Australia with a P7 finish

“Topping the midfield is one thing, topping the midfield and getting the points is another thing,” Mekies told the F1 Nation podcast. “I think we’ve done everything we could this weekend. Yuki drove fantastically from the first time he has been on the track in FP1 to how he executed the race. Very strong, very smooth, very calm – and it gave us the points and gave us the possibility to be quite close to Stroll.”

Mekies was then quizzed further on Tsunoda’s progress and asked whether RB’s engineers had been saying he'd made a step forward this year.

“Yes, they are saying that absolutely,” Mekies responded. “He's in a good place right now. He's making very big steps in how he approaches races, the calm he has in the car, and he has been stepping up.”

READ MORE: Ricciardo explains why 2024 struggles with RB are different to his time at McLaren

On the other side of the RB garage Tsunoda’s team mate Ricciardo hasn’t had as strong a start to 2024 as he would have liked. So far, the Australian has scored a P13, P16 and P12 in the opening three races and will be hoping to get into the point-paying positions soon enough.

The driver market also plays a big part again, with the Australian targeting a return to the Red Bull seat he vacated at the end of 2018, but will know performances have to improve – as will his head-to-head with Tsunoda – if that is to become a reality.

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“Dan’s pace was good enough for points,” Mekies told F1 Nation after the race in Australia. “Of course, he started from the back so it looks unnoticed, but it's very important that we pick up the right speed with him and give him a car he is comfortable with.

“Maybe this weekend he had that by the time we went to quali, whilst on the other side of the garage, we were probably having that already in FP1. This has an impact in how you perform because it is the time you need to build the confidence and so on.

“We are still digging with him and the engineers, as you would do with any driver, to try to make sure we tailor the car to what he needs and it will come.”

READ MORE: Tsunoda 'proving to the people' with his performances as he reflects on strong start to 2024


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