Yuki Tsunoda will graduate to Formula 1 to contest his rookie season in the championship next year, partnering Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri in 2021.

The 20-year-old Japanese racer is a member of both the Honda and Red Bull junior driver programmes and finished third in the 2020 FIA Formula 2 championship following an impressive first season in the series.

Tsunoda secured the required points to earn an FIA superlicence in his rookie F2 season, paving the way for his promotion to make his F1 debut with Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri, where he will replace Daniil Kvyat.

He will be the first Japanese driver in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi raced for Caterham in 2014. 

“Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in Formula 1, so I am very happy with this news," Tsunoda said.

"I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr. Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe. I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year.

"I realise that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them too.”

Three victories across a stunning maiden F2 season with Carlin vaulted Tsunoda up to third in the championship as he ended the year just one point behind runner-up Callum Ilott.

Tsunoda, who has already carried out a test in a 2018-spec F1 car at Imola last month, also took part in the in the young drivers test for the Faenza outfit in Abu Dhabi

“Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team," said AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost.

"Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding. During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback.

"In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps. At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1.”

The decision to promote Tsunoda leaves Kvyat without a drive on the grid for the 2021 F1 season, though the Russian is hoping to return with another team in the future.

"I'll try to come back, because I feel like in the right ambience with the right people around me in the right car, which I like," Kvyat said after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

"I can be extremely competitive, and I still feel like I have a lot to give. I am grateful of course for everything, for all these years.

"It was great, great stint, these last two years with the team. That is fantastic. They are amazing."

 

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