Exclusive: Yuki Tsunoda on managing mental & physical F1 challenges, remaining '22 targets & Japan return

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda is in his second season in Formula 1 and has earned a third year with AlphaTauri, with it becoming that bit clearer which drivers they are going to have competing for them in 2023.

A driver with fantastic speed, Tsunoda has striven to add more consistency and a cooler perspective to his racing, with it clear he has been working on that as his F1 career has developed.

Indeed, his post-Zandvoort reaction spoke volumes, after it was wrongly levelled at his team they’d somehow on purpose sent him back out on track after he’d felt an issue to try and alter the result in sister team Red Bull’s favour, from some irate quarters on social media.

Managing social media

That ultimately is another element that modern F1 drivers have to deal with, though, especially in the Drive to Survive era, and Tsunoda’s outlook is one of someone who has clearly put the work in to deal with it.

Speaking to Give Me Sport exclusively, he explained:

“I’m recently controlling that stuff quite well. Much better than last year.

“I recognise some people [speaking about] those situations, but I don’t read actual comments from them. I don’t see much social media anyway. I really don’t care! My performance won’t be affected by anything from people, especially those who are against us, it won’t affect my performance or my mood or anything. It just feels like, ‘oh, there’s people saying those things.’ And it’s funny.

“I was surprised to be honest, how people reacted to it. It was just a very simple thing that there was a car issue. And the engineers at first didn’t recognise the issue in the data, that’s why we restarted.

“Then we found the issue in the data and that’s why we stopped. Simple as that. And people love to make drama or something like that and it’s way too much. It’s a bit frustrating.”

2022 so far

Away from the off-track drama, the on-track action for AlphaTauri has perhaps been a little below where they wanted it to be this year.

They had a fine 2021 campaign but the 2022 regulation changes have pushed them down the pecking order a bit, though Tsunoda says in terms of his own performances he feels as though he’s getting as much as he can out of the car:

“It’s been nice [since the summer break] I will say so far. I’ve been able to continue the progress I had done in the first half of the season every race week, and I aim to continue that progress. In Spa and in the Netherlands performance was quite good, I felt confident straightaway and on the long runs as well there was quite good pace.

“So yeah, I mean, I’m quite happy with the performance so far and also working with AlphaTauri. Like, right now we’re not in the ideal situation and also with performance for sure but I’m enjoying working with them and extracting the performance each race.”

Tsunoda’s training schedule

F1 is in an unplanned mini-break of sorts with the Russian Grand Prix cancelled at the start of the year, meaning that we don’t race again until the start of October in Singapore.

How much does a driver get to see during a hectic triple-header as we have just had, though, in terms of the destinations the sport visits in quick succession?

“During this one not much to be honest because you want to train every day after the race week,” explains Tsunoda.

“And, of course, you want to go to the same gym, for example, because you know what you have to do, you know what equipment you want to use.

Yuki Tsunoda drives in Spain
BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 21: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT03 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on May 21, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

“In the wider season, you want to keep or even increase the physical performance and I feel like every time if I go outside and explore, you know, there’s not so much time to train myself. I think I did enough [exploring] in the summer break, that was the actual first time this year so far that I didn’t do any training for six days in a row.”

Yuki is evidently working hard on both his physical and mental performance, with both set to be put through their paces in Singapore with the humidity and time difference. Tsunoda says he’s got a plan ready to meet that challenge though:

“I heard the heat and humidity will be the big challenge. So mainly I will focus on heat adaption and how to control the heat with saunas and stuff like that, and I’ll keep training.

“I have to go to the UK to the simulator to keep helping with the development. There’s big time between races but it won’t be the same as the summer break.”

Return to Japan

Straight after Singapore is Japan and, with it being his home race, Tsunoda is naturally looking forward to that one:

“I’m super excited about Suzuka, we’re already preparing special helmets. At the same time I heard there are lots of promotions that will happen in Suzuka, which is a bit of mixed feelings for me!

“But at least I can enjoy the Japanese food and driving in front of the Japanese fans in Formula One is definitely a special thing for me. I can’t wait for sure and hopefully the restrictions won’t be super strict in Japan.”

Remaining aims for the season

What are Yuki and AlphaTauri’s aims for the final stages of this season, meanwhile, now he has earned a new deal with the team? It’s clear some solid performances without issues are on his wishlist:

“Realistically if we can’t bring big updates to the following races we can’t achieve the P5 in the teams’ championship that we were targeting. P7 would be good.

“I think we’ll see. I don’t think it’ll be a great season like last year and I don’t think we’ll change the situation in one race. But yeah, I think this is still an important season for us in terms of next year as well. So we’ll keep going, keep trying anything, understand about the car as much as possible and have an idea to have a good start next year.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 22: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT03 leads Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT03 during the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on May 22, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

“I want to achieve a clean race week at at least four races without having any situation, something like that. We’re facing currently a difficult time but actually, this is a good opportunity to improve ourselves in general. I think I just want to have a smile at the end of the race! And we can focus for next year as well.”

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