Sato: Tsunoda has 'massive potential' to succeed in F1

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Former F1 driver and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato is a big believer in the talent of his countryman Yuki Tsunoda, and says the AlphaTauri rookie just needs time to get to grips with F1.

Hailed as a super talent by Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko, who promoted him to the big time this year, Tsunoda has delivered mixed results so far, showing true speed on occasion but also indulging in basic mistakes that reflected the young charger's inexperience or lack of maturity.

Unless he severely underperforms in the second half of the 2021 season, Tsunoda is likely to remain with AlphaTauri next season. But the 21-year-old will definitely need to improve his result to remain in Marko's good graces.

"Every single one of us observed already that Yuki's raw speed isn't in question," said Sato, speaking on the lastest In The Fast Lane podcast.

"He has tremendous speed and he's a very fast guy but he's only 20-years-old. We mustn't forget that the situation he's been put in right now, of course there is rookie drivers like Mick Schumacher, but that's rookie to rookie [versus Nikita Mazepin], and Yuki has to go against one of the fastest young guys in Pierre [Gasly].

"In Formula 1, your teammate is the guide to be up against and probably the only person to judge against, not fairly, but mostly from most of the people from outside.

"So the team knows what Yuki is capable of but, [from] the outside, it's very difficult to judge who's got potential. But I believe Yuki has got massive potential to success in Formula 1."

If anything, Tsunoda needs first and foremost experience, reckons Sato who raced in F1 from 2002 to 2008. But F1's restrictions on testing certainly don't facilitate a young rookie's adaptation to the sport's sophisticated machinery. Sato therefore urges patience.

"He just needs to have more experience, to be honest, because, in my days in Formula 1, we had winter testing like almost every week that we go to Barcelona, Jerez circuit and so on," Sato commented.

"Even during a season, we had to have a third driver or test driver because I think it was too tiring for the race drivers juggling all over the place.

"That amount of laps and tyre testing and just timing the car is probably ten times what Yuki is tasting at the moment.

"So, it's really not fair to judge, he's having a quite challenging time. So, I think, once he has got more comfortable with the environment, he's got confidence back and then just do a solid couple [of] races before going back to Japan actually.

"He will have a huge support like I had it in 2002. And then he will launch in it with the speed and consistency and strength and he has everything. So basically we have to be patient, to wait and support him."

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