Tsunoda: 'Building up pace' key to Imola weekend


AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda says a gradual progression of his performance at Imola next weekend will be key to securing a good result in his second F1 race.

Tsunoda enjoyed an impressive baptism of fire in F1 last month when he finished P9 in Bahrain, becoming the first Japanese driver to score championship points on a Grand Prix debut.

The talented 20-year-old's performance was certainly facilitated by three days of pre-season testing at Sakhir that fast-tracked his knowledge of the track.

But Imola's Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is also familiar territory for Tsunoda, having ground around the 4.9 km scenic track in the recent past during a series of private test sessions with AlphaTauri.

However, Tsunoda knows that he won't be able to rely on his experience at other upcoming venues.

"I think when we come to tracks that are new to me, like Portimao and Monaco, that will be tougher than Bahrain," commented the AlphaTauri charger ahead of this week's round in Italy.

"It won't be a problem in Imola, as I have driven there a lot and so I can work in a similar way to what I did in Bahrain. I will use the experience from the first race and I already have confidence in the car in Imola."

Tsunoda is banking on a methodical, progressive approach to his race weekend to extract the most from himself and his equipment.

"I will start the weekend gradually building up my pace," he added. "That will be the key, because you don’t want to make a mistake in FP1 which will make you lose your confidence.

"Because we have driven there before the season, as a team we can just focus on car set-up and try and maximise that advantage and hopefully we can have a good result.

"It’s important as it is a home race for the team and even for me, it feels like home."

Tsunoda's opening salvo in Bahrain earned him plaudits from the F1 community - including Ross Brawn who labeled him "the best rookie F1 has had in years" - and from the fans.

But the impressive rookie claims he was surprised by all the positive reactions although he noted that the headlines in his home country were perhaps less gushing.

"It was interesting that after Bahrain, I think I got a bigger reaction from European fans than from those in Japan," he said. "It’s a cultural thing: Japanese fans want to see what I do in a few rounds before getting a proper impression.

"I was surprised at that reaction in Europe. I didn’t expect it, because for me, Bahrain was not a perfect weekend and I was hoping to finish higher. I am happy about the fans’ support, but I don’t feel pressure because of it, I take it as something positive and this weekend I will just get on and do my job."

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