Yuki Tsunoda insists he is not daunted by the prospect of being the youngest driver on the Formula 1 grid this year and says he is “not afraid to make mistakes” in his rookie campaign.

Following an outstanding first season in Formula 2, the Honda and Red Bull-backed Japanese driver will make his F1 debut with AlphaTauri, replacing Daniil Kvyat to become Pierre Gasly’s new teammate.

At just 20 years old, Tsunoda will be the most inexperienced and youngest driver on the grid following his rapid ascent up the single-seater ladder, progressing from Formula 4 to F1 in just three years.

Asked if he feels any added pressure in being the first driver in F1 to be born in the 2000s in an interview for AlphaTauri’s website, Tsunoda replied: “No, not really.

“This will be my rookie season and I will be pushing hard right from the beginning to adapt to the car as much as possible.

“However, I’m not afraid to make mistakes – I will of course try and limit them – but they are inevitable at the beginning. I am confident I can learn from my mistakes though, as I proved last year in Formula 2.

“I am really happy to have the support of Japanese fans, and I’m proud to be the one to bring another Japanese driver on the grid, after Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

“As for the pressure, I put it on myself, so nothing changes in that regard for me – I want to push myself to succeed.”

Tsunoda, who carried out a two-day test at Imola last week as he steps up his preparations for his maiden F1 season, said that an improved mentality was key to helping his charge to third place in F2 last year.

"Last year for me was a season in which I made a big improvement in all aspects of my job,” he added.

“First of all, in terms of my driving but also in terms of my mentality and psychology regarding how I approached my racing.

"I think I improved a lot during Formula 2. It was a very successful season, one of the best in my racing career.”

After showing his speed early on with a pole position at the second race in Austria but having struggled to put together a run of solid results, Tsunoda revealed he started working with a psychological trainer, a move which was the catalyst to a breakthrough in form.

Tsunoda went on to take three victories, a further two podiums, and six top-six finishes in the second half of the campaign as he clinched third place in the standings.

“At the start of the season, I already had a good pace and could compete with strong rivals, but I lacked consistency until the middle of the season,” he explained. “That meant I was unable to get good points in the early races.

“Then, from the mid-season on, I worked with a psychological trainer and we talked a lot about my racing – how I prepare for the race and my attitude during the race – as well as other factors. That resulted in my mentality improving a lot.

“By the end of the season, it was not yet where I wanted to be, but had improved so much since the start of the season. My on-track results continued to get better.

“At the start of last year – during the rookie test for example – I struggled with tyre management compared to my team-mates, however I have worked hard with the team and watched races from previous seasons to learn how to better manage this.

“The hard work we all put in paid off, as by the end of the year I had received the Pirelli award – which showed just how much progress I had made. I know the next step in my motorsport career won’t be easy, but I can’t wait.”

 

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