Tsunoda 'surprised' to have been retained by AlphaTauri

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F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda says he was "surprised" to have been handed a second year F1 with AlphaTauri after a difficult first half of the season.

Earlier this week, the Red Bull-affiliated outfit confirmed its 2022 line-up, with Tsunoda remaining alongside team leader Pierre Gasly.

But a bumpy 2021 maiden campaign in F1 marked by several crashes and inconsistent performances put the young Japanese driver at risk of seeing his tenure in the sport cut short.

"To be honest, my first half of the season was quite inconsistent," admitted Tsunoda, speaking ahead of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

"From my side I was a bit surprised I'll be staying next year. So first of all, thanks for the team."

Tsunoda explained why there was considerable doubt in his mind about his future with the Faenza-based squad.

"I kept crashing and spend [cost] a lot of money for the team," he said. "I was not on a good way to end the first half of the season, especially in Hungary when I went to the wall in FP1 and ruined a whole session, almost two sessions.

"For Franz [Tost, team boss] and Helmut [Marko from Red Bull], you need a more consistent result and more driving, and also discipline in the sessions. I couldn't improve through the first half of the season, and that's why."

Tsunoda had hit the ground running in Bahrain at the start of the season, finishing his F1 race in the points in P9. But a costly error in qualifying at the following race at Imola set back the 21-year-old and blunted his confidence.

"I didn't know what was going to happen at the first F1 race and I just fully sent it almost every session," he said. "At that point, I felt very good, and I was feeling I was driving very well at that point.

"I think from Imola, especially after qualifying, I lost maybe a little bit of confidence. I kept doing mistakes every time so I reset: building confidence."

In hindsight, Tsunoda admits that he underestimated the strenuous difficulties of adapting to F1 and their impact on a driver's confidence level.

"I didn't expect it to be that difficult in F1, because even in junior categories, if I had a massive slap or went into the wall, I never lost this much confidence. So that's one main issue.

"That's why I'm building up and trying to have more consistent laps, and consistent sessions.

"And also at the beginning of the season, expectations were too high. And that's why I think the first race went well.

"But after that it was just getting confusing each session and each race week, and that made it spiral."

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