AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost believes that Yuki Tsunoda can go on to enjoy a successful career in Formula 1 following a rocky opening season.
Tsunoda was introduced to the Red Bull junior team as a Honda-backed driver in 2021, and got his rookie season off to a good start, scoring points in the opening race in Bahrain.
However, he has since conceded that he got “lazy” following his auspicious start, and he started to come under intense scrutiny as he managed six more points finishes for the rest of the year, suffering multiple qualifying crashes and failing to finish four grand prix.
Conversely, his team-mate Pierre Gasly finished in the top 10 on 15 occasions, ending up on the podium in Azerbaijan as he out-qualified the Japanese 21-1.
Tsunoda was also moved to Italy from Britain by Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko to improve his focus as he worked more closely with the team, making for a strenuous and testing first season.
At the very least, Tost insists that the 21-year-old will have learned a lot from his trial by fire, and will continue to do so over the next couple of years.
“I hope that this year he will become more consistently fast. There will also be some crashes, whatever. This is the reason I always say that, to educate a driver to a really good level, you need three years minimum,” he said, as quoted by RacingNews365.com.
“The first year, it’s just completely [about] learning. It’s not only the driving, the driving is the easiest one! It’s everything around the technical side, marketing and press. Every weekend you are confronted with a new situation.
“I’m convinced that Yuki will do it. I’m also convinced that he can make a successful future. The rest? We will see.”
Tsunoda’s path already seems highly distinct from drivers who have gone on to make successful careers in the Red Bull team.
Sebastian Vettel raced for both BMW Sauber and Toro Rosso – AlphaTauri’s previous guise- in 2007, scoring points twice in eight races and out-qualifying established team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi three times in the seven races they had together that year.
He then went on to take a famous win in Monza in 2008 in wet conditions in what was an emotional moment for the former Minardi team that had contested 38 races without a win.
The German went on to win four consecutive titles with Red Bull and, a little over a year after his last in 2013, along came Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman partnered fellow rookie Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso in 2015, and he scored 10 points finishes, including fourth at the crazy Hungarian Grand Prix that year, at just 17 years of age.
Verstappen was moved up to Red Bull to replace Daniil Kvyat just four races into the 2016 season, and he took victory on his debut at the Spanish Grand Prix after the Mercedes pair of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wiped each other out.
The rest is history, but Tost notes that Verstappen still had to adapt to life at Red Bull that year, and various mistakes and incidents – including at the Belgian Grand Prix – convince Tost that, irrespective of talent, a driver needs time to learn.
“In those days, when Max came to Red Bull, it was another situation – like also when Vettel came here,” he explained.
“Max won the first race [for Red Bull] in Barcelona because of the crash of the Mercedes, but it took him a while to get familiar with the team. There were some other incidents after he left Toro Rosso, which means it took him some time to learn, also at Red Bull.”
Tsunoda scored points at the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix this season, before reliability issues in both qualifying and the race completely ruled him out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.