As Formula 1 zooms into the iconic Suzuka circuit for the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, one topic seems to be dominating conversations off the track: the future of Yuki Tsunoda and the yet-to-be-confirmed seats at AlphaTauri for the 2024 season.
It's a question that not only concerns Tsunoda but also casts a spotlight on the tantalizing question of who will be his teammate if he continues with the team. The Japanese sensation started the current season with Dutchman Nyck de Vries, only for the latter to be swapped out for the experienced Daniel Ricciardo mid-season.
However, an injury Ricciardo sustained at Zandvoort paved the way for Red Bull reserve Liam Lawson to make his F1 debut.
Tsunoda's Take on His Potential Teammates
When probed about his future and potential teammates at AlphaTauri, Tsunoda offered a nuanced view.
"I was speaking already... It’s not confirmed yet, but I don’t know to be honest. I think from both perspectives they are positive," he said. Discussing the merits of Ricciardo, Tsunoda praised the veteran's expertise: "Daniel brings definitely more experience and he showed a lot of feedback comparison.
He definitely can tell more details about how the car is behaving, so I think it helps a lot for the engineers." It's clear that Tsunoda sees Ricciardo as an asset, particularly for a team aiming to climb the competitive ladder.
However, the rookie Lawson also caught Tsunoda's eye. "Liam, I think he showed in the first two, three races a good performance and probably he’s still progressing," he said. Lawson’s recent performances at Monza and Singapore have been promising, reflecting positively not just on him but also on the team’s recent strides in vehicle performance.
The Balancing Act of AlphaTauri
Tsunoda was careful to highlight the delicate balance that AlphaTauri has to consider. The team, known as Red Bull's junior outfit, must weigh the risks and rewards of choosing between an experienced driver like Ricciardo and a rising talent like Lawson.
"I think AlphaTauri — we know it’s a junior team — so there’s a bit more risk to think about the results in general," Tsunoda added. "If they want more results, Daniel is probably easier, he has more experience, so maybe he can extract those results, but also Liam...
I don’t know, I’m scared to say!" Closing on a lighter note, Tsunoda quipped: "I think Liam also had the best score, he did ninth, I’ve never done ninth, so I’ll stop here. Liam and Daniel… Three seats."