Sports car star Alex Brundle is full of praise for AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda's strong start to the 2022 season.
Tsunoda had a troubled rookie campaign, with a number of mistakes and mishaps leaving him lucky to be retained by the Italian squad at the end of the year.
But Brundle says that the Japanese driver has repaid the team's faith in him and has been much better and markedly less error-prone in the first four races.
In particular, he performed better than his highly-rated team mate Pierre Gasly throughout the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix race weekend
“He’s worked on it, hasn’t he? He’s still full beans in the cockpit,” Brundle told the Crash.net F1 podcast this week.
"The incidents are fading out, aren’t they? And they are believing in him and the performances are coming back in.
“The radio message when he made the pass late in the race - ‘Let’s go!’ - that’s something I absolutely love about him.
"I want to see him succeed," he added. “I find myself watching him really wanting to see him succeed because he’s a human in the car, you can tell that as opposed to some other drivers.
"It’s no detriment to the character [of the others]," he added. "In fact it’s probably beneficial in the circumstances that they come across as a machine. Yuki definitely doesn’t, it’s something I really like about him."
Tsunoda finished in the top ten in the season opener in Bahrain, but a mechanical failure meant he was unable to take his place on the grid in Saudi Arabia the following weekend.
He missed out on a top ten result in Melbourne, but was back on form in Imola with seventh place at the line while Gasly ended the race weekend pointless, putting him behind Tsunoda in the drivers standings.
"He drove a really strong race, overtaking many cars, to finish in seventh place," commented team principal Franz Tost. "Yuki has been competitive immediately, from Friday onwards, so I think he now has a good basis for the upcoming races."
Tsunoda said he was “super happy" to score points for the team at its home race, with Imola just a few miles from Faenza. "Every lap I could see the AlphaTauri flags being waved and it gave me a great boost.
"The pace of the car has been really good," he added. "I didn’t expect it to be quite that strong heading into the race, but we’ve made progress through the week and I’m pleased with the performance we showed.":
Brundle compared the 21-year-old's improvement across 2021 and 2022 and concluded: "There were stages through the middle of last year when he’d have an accident, Gasly performing at the front of the field, podiums, delivery and Yuki was nowhere to be seen.
“People questioned he should still be there," he continued. "[The team] really believed in him, they kept him through this year and I really hope he can deliver on that."
Brundle added that he hoped this reflected a change in Red Bull's notoriously brutal treatment of junior driver talent deemed to be underperforming.
"I’d like to see the programme move in that direction, of nurturing rather than just ‘Throw him in, no!’, ‘Throw him in, no!’” he said.