‘Certain cult status with us’: Helmut Marko makes bizarre comment about Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda does not have a contract beyond the end of this season.

Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko believes that AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda has the tools to win races in Formula 1.

The Japanese joined the Red Bull junior side last season replacing Daniil Kvyat, who now plies his trade in NASCAR.

Tsunoda scored points seven times last term, and was out-qualified by Pierre Gasly 21 times over the course of the season.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda at Silverstone in 2021.v1

READ: Helmut Marko dismisses AlphaTauri claim as he admits he’s not happy with the team

The Frenchman was also a lot less error prone than his team-mate, which was a source of frustration for the Faenza-based squad.

In the end, Tsunoda began to focus and settle more, which was helped by Dr Marko moving him from Britain to Italy to spend more time with the engineers.

The 22-year-old pulled off a best result of P4 at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which was a brilliant result for the rookie, but it was overshadowed by the title drama involving Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton.

This year, both Gasly and Tsunoda have been faced with an underperforming car, and they have been in the points six times between them.

The 2020 Formula 2 runner-up has generally matched up better this season, out-qualifying the 26-year-old five times, and finishing ahead four times in race trim.

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Despite the improvements though, he still does not have a contract going into next season, and AlphaTauri are not short of options.

Liam Lawson has caught several eyes in F2 this season, while Mick Schumacher and Zhou Guanyu are also out of contract at Haas and Alfa Romeo respectively come the end of 2022.

It would appear likely that the Italian side will be keeping Tsunoda around though, as evidenced by Dr Marko’s praise.

READ: Pierre Gasly opens up on ‘frustrating’ year with focus shifting to 2023

“He has the potential to win grands prix, he has a certain cult status with us,” he said with a smirk in conversation with motorsport-total.com.

However, the 79-year-old suggested that mental attributes have to combine with racing skill in order to make a world champion.

“To be world champion, so many things have to come together,” explained Dr Marko.

“There has to be one step more from the driver as an overall personality, because in a critical situation the driver can raise the whole team up or pull them down.”

Dr Marko recently hired a psychologist to work with Tsunoda and help him focus, but this by no means is a suggestion that the Sagamihara-born racer deos not have the capacity to become world champion. 

“Tsunoda isn’t the only driver who has problems in this area and who does something like that,” he stated.

Gasly is contracted until the end of 2023, which coincides with the end of his Red Bull deal, at which point he is likely to leave.