Scuderia AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda feels he's emerged as a stronger driver in his second Formula 1® season after an early setback sapped him of confidence in 2021.
The Japanese driver vaulted onto the F1® grid last season after spending just one year in F3® (2019) and F2® (2020), winning races in both seasons. He then scored points on his F1® debut in Bahrain last year to mark himself as a star of the future, Formula 1®, Managing Director of Motorsport Ross Brawn calling Tsunoda "the best rookie F1® has had for years".
However, a heavy crash in qualifying at the next race, the Formula 1® Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, saw Tsunoda's early momentum come to a screeching halt. Speaking to the In the Fast Lane podcast, the 22-year-old admitted his self-belief was impacted by such a large accident so early in his F1® career.
"Last year I was lacking confidence, especially after the big crash at Imola," Tsunoda told the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's official podcast.
"The first race in Bahrain went well, I scored points … my confidence was over-confidence. I'd never had a big crash like that. As soon as I drove the next session, there were flashbacks from the crash I had still in my brain. I tried multiple things to regain the confidence, but it didn't work.
"The team has helped me a lot, have given me a lot of time, and now I'm feeling at a confident level, even better than Bahrain last year. It took a long time, but I already experienced most of the worst things last year. I think as a driver, I'm now a step or two steps better than last year."
Tsunoda said his relationship with Grand Prix-winning teammate Pierre Gasly remains strong, despite Tsunoda crashing into Gasly at the recent Formula 1® British Grand Prix at Silverstone, when both drivers were running inside the top-10 points-paying positions.
"That was definitely not a good situation for everyone," Tsunoda admitted.
"We lost lots of points … I apologised to Pierre. We talked with everyone, with the team, (team principal) Franz (Tost), the engineers, Pierre … we have to reset our minds and move forward.
"With Pierre, the first time we met was at Motegi for Honda's 'Thanks' Day in 2017. I was driving in Formula 4 and he was already in Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) – I was really nervous because he was already a Formula One driver. Probably because of that, we have a good relationship straight away (as teammates). I'm really happy working with him and learning lots of things from him, he's experienced and is a really fast driver in Formula 1."
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