Tsunoda on 'brother' Gasly and 'good friend' de Vries

(L to R): Nyck de Vries (NLD) AlphaTauri with Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri and Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team on the drivers' parade. 19.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images
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AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda has been comparing and contrasting his relationships with former team mate Pierre Gasly and current partner-in-crime Nyck de Vries, as well as his boss Franz Tost.

The 22-year-old Japanese driver made his debut with the team in the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, and spent two seasons forming a close bond with Gasly.

But the Frenchman opted to leave the squad for Alpine at the end of last season, with former Formula E champion de Vries recruited to replace Gasly in 2023.

"It's good with Nyck," Tsunoda told the latest edition of the Beyond The Grid podcast. "I'm impressed with the feedback he gives the team. He’s really specific in giving us a lot of information about the car.

"I learned a lot from him and I'm still learning from him," he said, adding that the pair had already got on well even before being paired up at Faenza.

"We are already friends from maybe three years ago," he explained. "I'd seen from magazines that Nyck was winning a lot of championships, so I knew about him.

(L to R): Nyck de Vries (NLD) AlphaTauri with team mate Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri. 29.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

"The first time [we were in contact] was from him, when I got pole position in Formula 2. He posted on Instagram and said congratulations," he said. "I didn't expect that.

"First time we met was on a flight to Monaco," he added. "We talked a bit on Instagram [but] we were never able to speak in person until three years ago in Monaco."

Of course it's still early days, and Tsunoda admitted that it wasn't the same as the close relationship he had enjoyed with Gasly.

"It's definitely different. Pierre was more like a brother, just really fully open," Tsunoda said. "I just feel really, really comfortable with Pierre.

"When [I see Pierre] at the track, we say hi. He's living in Milan, so any time I can text him and we can go for food.

(L to R): Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri with team mate Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri. 12.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

"With Nyck, we still have a good relationship. We joke with each other," he continued. "I wouldn't say like a brother but he's a really, really good friend. I went with him for lunch, and we explored Melbourne."

Tsunoda said that while he was happy not to have tension between himself and his team mate, that didn't mean they weren't fiercely competitive on the track. "As soon as we wear the helmet, we're just rivals.

"I don't think it's necessary to have tension between us. We're automatically going to be in the zone that teammates are one of the drivers we want to beat most.

"We're going to have that kind of mindset anyway," he said, adding: "It's much easier to just be normal friends rather than 'driver friends'."

And even with Gasly, it hadn't always been a trouble-free ride. The pair notoriously collided while running P7 and P8 in last year's British GP, although Tsunoda insisted that the debrief afterwards had been calm and conflict-free

Instead it was team principal Franz Tost who let his feelings be known after the race. “He didn’t punch me of course [but] the voice was definitely higher than usual!" Tsunoda recalled.

Franz Tost (AUT) AlphaTauri Team Principal. 08.10.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 18, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"First of all he said to me, when I was in the engineer room: ‘Yuki, come to my office. Why did you do such a stupid thing?’

"I agree, it was so disappointing," Tsunoda acknowledged, saying that the awkwardness had only got worse. “Unfortunately on the way back to Italy, we were on the same flight and we were sitting next to each other [in the car].

"[There was] a lot of traffic [on the way out] so it was such a long, long journey than the usual from Silverstone - and after causing such a bad thing for the team and still in the same car!

"These are definitely the things I want to forget, but they are things I have to remember for the future to improve myself.”

The rift was soon healed and Tost retained Tsunoda at AlphaTauri for a third season, the pair bonding over tales of Tost’s early racing career in Formula 3 Germany and his victory in the 1983 Austrian Formula Ford Championship.

"We share a lot of moments together. We’re always on the same page. He has a lot of leadership," said Tsunoda, who said that it would be a wrench if Tost retired from the sport as he's recently hinted at.

"I will definitely miss him," Tsunoda said when asked by podcast host Tom Clarkson about the possibility. "Especially feeling the support he gives me. If I lose him, maybe I won’t feel as comfortable or excited in the team."

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