AlphaTauri has explained that Yuki Tsunoda’s improved maturity has seen him take a “big step up” this season, paving the way for his contract renewal for 2024.

AlphaTauri announced last weekend that Tsunoda will return for a third year with the team alongside Daniel Ricciardo, who replaced Nyck de Vries mid-season.

Tsunoda was handed his Formula 1 debut in 2021 but struggled immensely during his first two years, consistently being outperformed by then-team-mate Pierre Gasly.

However, the departure of Gasly to Alpine over the winter and the arrival of rookie de Vries saw Tsunoda become the experienced figurehead within the Faenza side’s ranks.

Prior to stand-in Liam Lawson coming home ninth in Singapore this month, Tsunoda had scored the entirety of AlphaTauri’s points, also narrowly missing out on the top 10 on three other occasions earlier in the year.

AlphaTauri Head of Trackside Engineering Jonathan Eddolls has documented the progress the Japanese racer has made that earned him an extension for next year.

“Yuki has taken quite a big step up this season,” Eddolls said. “He came in obviously with a rookie team-mate, so in a way he was our most experienced Formula 1 driver. And he took that on his shoulders and performed well.

“He’s definitely maturing. We all know in his first year or so he was quite hot-headed in the cockpit, on the radio. He’s controlling all of that now and I think focusing that on understanding the car and focusing that on the driving. So I think we’re seeing a much more consistent Yuki this year

“He’s shown as well, that he is very, very fast, capable. The lap in Singapore [when he was quickest in Q1] was a great example. Also he’s had some strong races. As I said, we just need to focus on improving the car to give him a package that he can consistently fight for points with.”

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri AT04. 23.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Qualifying Day.

After achieving a record points haul in 2021, AlphaTauri slumped to ninth in the Constructors’ Championship upon the overhaul to the regulations last year.

The Italian outfit’s troubles have continued into this season, with the team rooted to the bottom with only six rounds remaining.

“The season has been a challenge for us as a team,” Eddolls conceded. “We haven’t had a package that we have had in previous years or the package that we expected to have. So it has been a challenge at each event even to score points.”

However, away from the race track, Eddolls believes Tsunoda has progressed admirably when it comes to his understanding and technical feedback regarding the car.

“He’s focusing on understanding the car, giving better feedback. He’s maturing as a driver and that’s helping us focus on the areas to help him go faster,” he added.

“I think he’s also understanding more what he needs from the car, in terms of the balance characteristics, the entry stability, all these sorts of things.

“Before, he was still learning and he went through the change of regulations. And us as a team, as well, we know how to extract the most from him based on the data, his feedback. So I think we’re gelling as a group and that’s showing in his performance.”

Meanwhile, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has also lavished praise on Tsunoda’s development this year.

“Speed-wise, he’s certainly very competitive and he’s rounded that off with some strong race performances this year,” he assessed.

“He’s also had a succession of 11th places – unfortunately he wasn’t picking up points obviously in those races but I think that on the whole he’s had a pretty decent season and shown evolution and maturity compared to previous seasons.”

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