Japanese F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda has said that Mercedes and Sir Lewis Hamilton “must be p*ssed off.”
The 21-year-old has battled both Mercedes drivers at the last two grand prix – namely in Istanbul and Austin, Texas – and he made life especially difficult for Hamilton as he tried to overtake him for several laps during the Turkish Grand Prix.
Speaking after the US Grand Prix, Tsunoda said he has a feeling that Mercedes are unhappy with him, but he denied racing Hamilton or Bottas especially hard.
“Mercedes must be p*ssed off,” Tsunoda said.
“I don’t want to let through any drivers easily. I just did the right thing, the normal thing. I was using the tyres, but in the end I enjoyed the battles,” he added.
Tsunoda’s staunch defence against Hamilton in Istanbul ended up costing the seven-time World Champion a chunk of time, thereby aiding Max Verstappen and Red Bull – the sister team of Scuderia AlphaTauri – in their Championship battle against the Brit and Mercedes.
The Japanese driver finished the US GP in ninth position – his first points finish since Formula 1’s summer break.
Jody Egginton, AlphaTauri’s technical director, said Tsunoda has made steady progress and he explained why they opted to run a seat of soft tyres in qualifying.
“With Yuki, we’ve been making some good progress lately with the car,” Egginton said.
“He’s getting his confidence back a bit and it’s important to try and get him as far up the grid as we can and give him the confidence.
“If we’d have gone to the medium tyre he might have qualified outside of the top 10. He would have had a free tyre choice, that’s fair enough, but we thought ‘let’s try and get him in the top 10’.
“We knew Pierre would be up there as well, so the view was we’d have Pierre on the mediums, let’s give it a go with Yuki and get him up there.
“Had he qualified down in 15th or 16th, it makes it far more difficult.
“It was a risk. It would have been a challenge to get him through on the mediums in Q2. So it was either settle for 11th or 12th or put on the option (softs) and get him into the top 10,” he added.