Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa believes that the only thing Yuki Tsunoda still needs to add to his game is consistency to become a top racing driver.
Tsunoda had a difficult time of it in 2021, scoring points on just seven occasions compared to team-mate Pierre Gasly’s 15 top 10 finishes, while being out-qualified 21 times in 22 races by the Frenchman.
This year though, the 22-year-old has looked much more comfortable and calm in the AlphaTauri, and has out-qualified Gasly three times in the opening seven rounds, out-racing him by the same number.
He has also been in the points three times in a car that has not yet shown the impressive form that it did last year, but the Japanese being ahead of the former Red Bull driver in the standings is a telling sign that he is beginning to show why there was so much hype around him when he signed as a Honda-backed driver last year.
One or two mistakes have still crept in here and there, and the young Japanese has only made Q3 once so far in 2022, so Massa reckons that a bit more consistency is still needed.
“I think he’s missing a bit of consistency,” he told F1 TV.
“At some tracks, he shows the speed and he’s really competitive. He’s able to do a good qualifying, even a good race with some good overtakes.
“It’s just consistency; we know how important consistency is in Formula 1.”
Gasly might have made it into the top 10 last weekend in Monaco having shown tremendous pace all throughout practice, but as the track evolved exponentially during qualifying, he ended up in danger of falling into the drop zone in Q1.
The Frenchman tried to go out for a final run at it, but Tsunoda clonked the barrier at the Nouvelle chicane, leading a perhaps over-exuberant marshal to wave the red flag despite there being little damage to Tsunoda’s car, and little debris on the track.
As a result, Gasly did not have enough time to go out for another run, and was dumped out in the first qualifying phase.
Gasly turned the tide in wet conditions though, and finished the race 12th having started 17th, producing some fine overtakes in the process.
Massa reckons that, having learned some brutal lessons from his horrid half season with Red Bull in 2019, Gasly has turned himself into one of the best drivers on the grid, and a sure fire race winner if he is given the tools to do so.
“The performances from him, that he’s showing, for a long time already, he’s unbelievable,” explained the Brazilian.
“He was really quick all weekend [in Monaco],” continued Massa.
“In qualifying, it didn’t work well, the strategy, the red flag. Things didn’t work in the perfect way.
“He needs a good car because he’s showing that he can drive a top car, he’s showing us that he can fight, even for victories.”
Massa, who himself won 11 races with Ferrari between 2006 and 2008, said “yes, I believe so” when asked if the Frenchman is good enough for a top team to take a chance on him.
Sergio Perez has recently signed a new contract with Red Bull that keeps him at the team until at least the end of 2024, so Gasly will have nowhere to go when his Red Bull contract expires at the end of 2023.
He is sure to be kept on by the Faenza-based squad next season, but after that he might well be seeking employment from McLaren, whose Australian Daniel Ricciardo looks likely to leave when his McLaren contract runs out next year.