Yuki Tsunoda says he felt a “big improvement” from Honda’s new power unit as he made his Formula 1 testing bow for AlphaTauri in Bahrain.

The 20-year-old Japanese driver completed 37 laps behind the wheel of AlphaTauri’s new AT02 challenger in the afternoon of the opening day of running in Bahrain as he made his pre-season testing debut.

Getting some much-needed mileage ahead of his rookie F1 season, Tsunoda finished the day one place and less than half a second behind teammate Pierre Gasly in ninth place, despite having to content with a sandstorm.

“It was really exciting,” said Tsunoda. “I enjoyed it from the beginning to the end, especially the tricky conditions at the beginning of the session. Really sandy, and less grip. But for a debut in Formula 1, it was really good for controlling the car a lot to feel the limit of the downforce, so I enjoyed that.

“At the end, I had a bit of an issue, a bit of a fuel thing I think it was. I just drove 37 laps and my lap time was the lap time I did first with the hard tyre.

"So not the top potential, but it was a good test, and with the issue, it’s always good to have it in testing, not in the real race. So a good start.”

And Tsunoda hailed a noticeable gain from Honda’s brand new power unit introduced for the upcoming 2021 season.

“The PU, the engine, had a big improvement,” he explained. “Quite a good improvement compared to AT01, so I think we had a good start.

“I also think for the steering, we have a good step,” Tsunoda added, “and I have more confidence to drive into the corners. For me, it’s a really good, positive thing.”

Asked what his targets are for his debut F1 campaign, Tsunoda replied: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the races, how the physical [aspect] is going to be, how the tyre degradation is going to be in Formula 1. So I’ll just push hard from the beginning.

“Maybe I will do mistakes, and some silly things,” he added, “but I’m not afraid about that, because to learn the limit, you have to do mistakes. So just push hard and try to get as much as possible in the points and just do my best.”

 

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