Yuki Tsunoda enjoyed his first outing in an F1 car on Wednesday, the Japanese F2 driver completing a day of testing at Imola with AlphaTauri that proved more physical than expected.
Tsunoda who is in line for a graduation to F1 with AlphaTauri next season was entrusted with a 2018-spec car that he put through its paces while putting 352 kms under his belt.
The 20-year-old rookie enjoyed his outing but admitted the task of driving an F1 car in anger was physically more demanding compared to his usual F2 ride.
"It was easier for the driving, but also harder physically," said Tsunoda. "I expected it to be a little bit less hard physically, especially on the neck. Because driving in Formula 2, I don’t feel much on my neck, and my neck is pretty strong.
"After I drove a Formula 1 car today, I felt it pretty hard, especially in the braking zone and the braking performance. The braking power is more than I expected. I need a lot of training until maybe the next session and next event to drive a Formula 1 car and prepare."
The Japanese young gun was calm and composed when he slotted himself into the Toro Rosso STR13, hardly impressed by the prospect of driving an F1 car for th very first time.
"Nothing special to be honest," he said as he described his initial impression. "I might feel ‘oh, I’m in a Formula 1 car in a few minutes", but not much difference in leaving the pitlane between an F1 car and a Formula 2.
"It just felt normal, but it did feel special when the mechanics were giving the signal to remove the tyres from the blankets.
"That was really cool, I’ve only ever seen it in games. But I always wanted to see it in real life and see how it feels like. That felt a bit special."
But out on the track, Tsunoda said the power of the Honda engine was clearly a big boost compared to his F2 car.
"After I put the throttle, I initially feel the big power from the engine which I don’t feel much in Formula 2," he added. "I think that power is more than I expected, and that was, even in the rain, it was really, really big performance for the initial struggle.
"Even in rainy conditions, I think it was more [performance] than I felt in Formula 2 dry conditions. That was the biggest surprise for today."
During his run, the young charger - who will head into the final two rounds of the FIA F2 Championship at Sakhir sitting third in the standings - noted the difficulties in managing the various switches and settings on his steering wheel in the heat of the action.
"Easy to remember, but hard to react quickly while driving," Tsunoda said. "Whenever I heard from the engineer to change something in the first session, I struggled to react quickly and change the button.
"I’d have to look at the steering wheel or slow down to change the setting but, by the end, the practice on the Red Bull simulator helped to get used to it.
"By the end of the session, it was consistently faster. Then my laptimes in the race simulation were consistent, despite making it loads of changes every lap."
Tsunoda could take part with AlphaTauri in an FP2 at Bahrain, but team boss Franz Tost confirmed the charger's presence at the post-season young driver's test in Abu Dhabi.
"We had a very productive first test here in Imola with Yuki Tsunoda and we were able to complete 352km," Tost said.
"It was a bit damp in the morning, so we started the day on full wet tyres. Even so, Yuki got immediately familiar with the car, which means that when we changed to the dry tyres he improved his lap times straight away and it was quite impressive.
"After the lunch break we continued on with new sets of tyres and he improved further, showing that he was feeling more comfortable in the car, lap by lap.
"Yuki gave valuable technical feedback regarding the behaviour of the car, which was in line with what we expected.
"In his last run, he did a race simulation and he was very consistent, which is clear evidence he had everything under control.
"We are looking forward to his next test in Abu Dhabi, when he will be doing the young driver test for Scuderia AlphaTauri."