Yuki Tsunoda has backed AlphaTauri team-mate Nyck de Vries to eventually overcome the troubles that have encapsulated his rookie Formula 1 season.

The Dutchman was signed by Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko to replace the outgoing Pierre Gasly after an impressive run to points at last year’s Italian Grand Prix deputising for Alex Albon at Williams.

But de Vries has struggled hugely in his maiden F1 year, failing to score a single point across the opening nine rounds and regularly being outpaced by Tsunoda.

Furthermore, frequent incidents have consistently been detrimental to his progress and led to reports that de Vries could be dropped during the summer break.

Meanwhile, Tsunoda has recovered from an inconsistent first two years in the sport to establish himself as one of the standout drivers of the 2023 season so far.

However, he has denied that his debut year in 2021 is comparable to what de Vries is experiencing currently, explaining that external factors hampered his advances.

“To be honest, why I struggled in the first half of the season, the first year, was for me, not just my problem,” Tsunoda contended.

“There was definitely a lot of places I can improve, but it was just not my problem. And the second half of the season, after probably Turkey, probably when Alex came, I suddenly, it looks like from the outside I suddenly picked up the pace, but it was not just that.

“We changed different perspective, like chassis for example. I was behind Pierre two seconds in Russia free practice two, or one, and there was no way that I felt normal. That lap I felt good, and I was two seconds behind, 1.5 seconds behind.

“So finally, the team starts to do a bit to figure out what is going on, and we changed the chassis, and suddenly FP1 in Turkey, I’d never driven Turkey, and Pierre drove the year before. Suddenly, we were the same pace.

“So to be honest, I do not feel it was just my problem, but still lots of things I learned, even with a hard situation. That makes you definitely stronger as a driver.”

Nyck de Vries (NLD) AlphaTauri AT04. 02.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Race Day.

However, Tsunoda insists that de Vries has the inherent speed to carve out a career in F1 and believes his current partner needs to establish a degree of consistency.

“But yeah, I think Nyck so far, I don’t know, he just has to put it altogether,” he considered.

“The pace is there, so yeah, just probably need to find the rhythm, good rhythm, because so far, most of the races, probably he struggled a lot in terms of consistency.

“Yeah, I think in the end, he will get there I think, because in the past races, the past results, what he achieved, he’s showing that he can do it. I’m sure he’ll be OK.”

He added later: “But yeah, I think Nyck’s showing a really good pace in the free practice and a couple of qualifying.

Just a bit unlucky, because we’re not probably in the fastest car right now. It’s hard to make a good result, and to show the good performance.”

After being surprised that he was retained following an error-prone first year in F1, Tsunoda has progressed admirably this season and began to develop into a competent team leader in Gasly’s absence.

The Japanese driver says he has relished the team leaning more on his feedback as it bids to elevate itself from the foot of the grid.

“Yeah I would say I feel more comfortable,” he said. “I would say it’s a little bit different mentality right now, like I have a more clear target on what I have to do.

“I don’t, what is my exact role in the team, like especially Nyck’s is the first year in Formula 1, I’m the third year in this team, so I know I can help them more than other drivers to help them, what direction we have to choose.

“I feel more responsible, and sometimes I’m enjoying currently that kind of situation, and I can tell that the team is relying on me more than last year for sure.

“I’m happy with it. I feel responsible, makes me even better kind of stronger mentality into the race, a better approach, better preparation. Yeah, happy with it.”

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