AlphaTauri says "a big step up" this season on the back of improved maturity earned Yuki Tsunoda a new deal with Red Bull's sister outfit for 2024.
The 23-year-old Japanese driver, who made his debut with AlphaTauri in 2021, will embark on his fourth season with the Faenza-based outfit, and will continue with Daniel Ricciardo as his teammate.
Despite his young age, Tsunoda stepped up to the role of team leader this season, having started his campaign alongside F1 rookie Nyck de Vries before Ricciardo was handed the Dutchman's seat following his disappointing performances.
But throughout, and despite having only three top-ten finishes to his name in 2023, Tsunoda has grown into a mature and more consistent racer according to AlphaTauri head of trackside engineering Jonathan Eddolls.
"Yuki has taken quite a big step up this season," Eddolls said. "He came in obviously with a rookie team-mate, so in a way he was our most experienced Formula 1 driver. And he took that on his shoulders and performed well.
"He’s definitely maturing. We all know in his first year or so he was quite hot-headed in the cockpit, on the radio. He’s controlling all of that now and I think focusing that on understanding the car and focusing that on the driving. So I think we’re seeing a much more consistent Yuki this year
"He’s shown as well, that he is very, very fast, capable. The lap in Singapore [when he was quickest in Q1] was a great example.
"Also he’s had some strong races. As I said, we just need to focus on improving the car to give him a package that he can consistently fight for points with."
Circumstances this year have pitted Tsunoda against three different teammates – de Vries, Ricciardo and the Aussie's substitute Liam Lawson.
But the Japanese charger says that this has actually encouraged him to pay little attention to the data coming from the other side of the garage and to carve out his own approach to maximize his car's performance.
"I like that challenge this year so far because so far I’m not really looking at data from my team mates," Tsunoda explained.
"Sometimes, obviously, I’m looking for it. But I’m mainly trying to discover what I can do without any data, just a comparison with other teams and how the other drivers are driving.
"I think in the end that’s the kind of things I need as a driver in the future anyway, so for me it’s good training.
"Until last year I got a bit of support from other drivers, I had a good reference from data and I could compare where I was losing. But now I have to think for myself where I’m losing, what I can improve. "And I kind of already try to think myself, try to feel more where I’m lacking, where I’m losing, even when I’m driving."
Tsunoda believes that becoming his own man at AlphaTauri has boosted his responsibilities and as a result, he's improved as a driver.
"It’s good learning for me," he added. "I feel even more responsible now which, I think, to be a better driver is for me a good opportunity.
"So far I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing and able to show the performance every time consistently. So I just have to keep doing like this and also support other drivers as much as possible."
Eddolls confirmed Tsunoda's new-found self-reliance and the positive it has had on his development as a driver.
"He’s focusing on understanding the car, giving better feedback. He’s maturing as a driver and that’s helping us focus on the areas to help him go faster," he said.
"I think he’s also understanding more what he needs from the car, in terms of the balance characteristics, the entry stability, all these sorts of things.
"Before, he was still learning and he went through the change of regulations. And us as a team, as well, we know how to extract the most from him based on the data, his feedback.
"So I think we’re gelling as a group and that’s showing in his performance."