Yuki Tsunoda says he “got a heart attack” when AlphaTauri called him in for a late pitstop to successfully secure the fastest lap during Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Having failed to score a single point in the previous five rounds, Tsunoda was frustrated to narrowly miss out on a starting berth inside the top 10 in Austin by only 0.018s.

However, he capitalised on Esteban Ocon’s contact with Oscar Piastri to pass the wounded Alpine in the opening laps before grasping ninth when the McLaren retired.

Tsunoda had been relegated out of the points late on by the recovering Aston Martins but returned to 10th when Fernando Alonso dropped out with floor damage.

With a sizeable margin to the car directly behind, AlphaTauri elected to pit Tsunoda onto the Soft tyre with two laps remaining to seize the bonus point for fastest lap.

While the Japanese racer admits he relished the challenge, Tsunoda admits that he was concerned the call to box related to a potential technical problem with his AT04.

“I love this track. Probably three years in a row in the points is pretty amazing,” Tsunoda said. Especially in front of these Austin fans.”

“I super-enjoyed the last lap with the fresh tyres, the car felt good so well done to the team. To be honest I got a heart attack when I had to box because I thought it’s like something, an issue from the engine or whatever.

“But after I heard we go for [the] fastest lap, then I was relieved. But still, there was a bit of pressure on, we were able to still get a fastest lap, so it was good.”

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri on the grid. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.

Tsunoda, who was promoted up to eighth when Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified, achieved the fastest lap for the first time in his Formula 1 career.

The 23-year-old acknowledged that it was “probably the first experience, going for fastest lap in the last lap”, having previously been tasked with conserving his rubber.

“Obviously after lots of managing the tyres, straight into the quali mode was kind of thrilling,” he continued. “But at the same time, I enjoyed it. The amount of grip I felt, with the low fuel, it’s amazing.

“For myself it was 100%. From the engine side it was not probably 100%. We probably wouldn’t be able to recharge the battery or whatever. But for myself, at least 100%. Last push.

“Especially here, it’s a physical and demanding track, so it was pretty hard but we refocused and were able to score and actually able to kind of improve quite a big chunk of time.”

After introducing a sizeable Red Bull-inspired upgrade package in Singapore, AlphaTauri continued its late-season charge with the addition of a revised floor in Austin.

Tsunoda believes his outing at the Circuit of the Americas demonstrates that AlphaTauri is making tangible progress up the order.

“The people who work in the background, in Faenza, in Bicester, try to improve our package as much as possible race by race, and definitely we’re making progress little by little. And definitely I felt we’re getting closer towards the P10,” he asserted.

“So if you look at this race, still I had a bit of luck towards the end to score points, but anything can happen like this race, so we tried to be around P10 and get the points as much as possible.

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