Yuki Tsunoda admits he “s*** my pants” when he ended up with a wheel on the grass on the restart lap during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Tsunoda had scored AlphaTauri’s first-ever points in a Sprint race on Saturday, but his grand prix prospects were hindered by a troubled qualifying that left him 16th on the grid, only one place ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo as both cars exited Q1.

However, Tsunoda took advantage of Charles Leclerc’s failure to start and a collision between Alex Albon and Kevin Magnussen on the approach to Turn 1 to rise six places before the race was red-flagged.

But on the restart, Tsunoda failed with an overtake on ex-team-mate Pierre Gasly into Juncao, resulting in him running wide on the exit and losing a place to Esteban Ocon.

“Yeah that was a big mistake,” he conceded. “So yeah it was a bit scary I actually, I shit my pants. Luckily I didn’t expect a DNF.”

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri AT04. 05.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Race Day.

Having run a long middle stint on the Medium tyre before switching to the Soft for a late charge, Tsunoda was aiming to hunt down a struggling Lewis Hamilton.

Although George Russell’s retirement promoted him a further place, Tsunoda believes that more could have been possible without being limited by a reliability issue.

But Ricciardo’s race was blighted by damage from the first lap contact that immediately put him and Oscar Piastri a lap down.

“Yeah it was good,” Tsunoda reflected. “Unfortunate for Daniel at the end, his pace was really good. I think also he changed a bit of setup and I think we got good data, he was quite fast.

“So yeah, I think it was really good overall from the team. I struggled in the end with a reliability issue, but luckily we were able to bring the car home.”

When asked who he predicts he could have caught without the technical gremlin, Tsunoda replied: “I don’t know about Pierre, but Lewis quite [a] high chance.”

Tsunoda’s ninth place marked AlphaTauri’s third consecutive points score, bringing the Faenza squad to within seven points of Williams in the Constructors’ standings.

“I think it’s good scoring points in these three races in a row,” he asserted. “So yeah, very good rhythm. We just keep doing like this races after races and now we are closer to P7 in the championship. So it’s possible, I think we can and we will do our best.”

AlphaTauri have reaped the benefits of continuing to bring upgrades towards the end of the year, compared to its rivals who have predominantly switched focus to 2024.

Asked how much better the car feels compared to earlier in the campaign, Tsunoda answered: “Yes, I mean. Inside the car it feels quite similar. Obviously, I feel better kind of through corner balance.

“But yeah, I would say the results say everything that we definitely made a big step, especially the upgrades we had in Austin.”

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