Tsunoda falls just short in heroic push for AlphaTauri


AlphaTauri headed into the final race of 2023 in Abu Dhabi knowing it was the end of an era, with the departure of tram boss Franz Tost and a new name and corporate identity to come, and understandably really wanted to go out on a high.

Having been in last place in the constructors' championship as recently as the United States GP last month, they were throwing everything into their bid to ascend to seventh in the standings.

With their form improving in recent races after a terrible start, AlphaTauri had already moved ahead of Haas and Alfa Romeo in recent outings and arrived at Abu Dhabi just seven points away from overhauling Williams.

With neither Williams driver looking competitive this weekend, that meant Tsunoda could pull it off by finishing in sixth place on Sunday and give Franz Tost th best leaving gift that mere money can't but.

Motivated by that ambition, Tsunoda succeeded in qualifying in P6 on the grid and had a strong start to the race. A longer first stint than the cars ahead and a one-stop strategy allowed him to take the lead of the race on lap 18.

It's the first time that a Japanese driver has led a Grand Prix since Takuma Sato in 2004. But once he pitted, Tsunoda dropped out of the points. The one-stop strategy while others were making two proved the wrong call.

He ended up losing out to Oscar Piastri and Fernando Alonso to finish in seventh. With Daniel Ricciardo not scoring any points, it meant AlphaTauri was left three points short of Williams in the final standings.

“At some point, I thought we could finish potentially top six but it just didn’t work out,” he told the media in the paddock at Yas Marina after the finish.

“I don’t think we have regrets that we stayed out and tried to go one-stop, just obviously a shame that we weren’t able to finish P7. At least I gave it all - everything - and happy for it.

“Overall, it was an enjoyable season I would say," he continued. "Started as a really tough season with car performance, but at the same time I was able to step up, at least compared to the last two years.

"It didn’t pay off in the end – well, we were still able to claim P8 in the teams’ championship from P10 so that’s pretty good, that’s positive.” He was voted F1 driver of the day by the fans for his efforts.

Yuki Tsunoda (JPN) AlphaTauri AT04. 26.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

“Thanks to everyone for voting me Driver of the Day," he acknowledged, adding his thanks to the team based in Bicester and Faenza. "And well done to Williams, they deserve it and I enjoyed the battle we had."

Tsunoda had worn a special tribute helmet for team principal Franz Tost who leaves the squad this weekend after 18 years in charge. “Thanks to Franz once again," he said.

"I enjoyed the last three years, and I will definitely miss him. Without his advice on how to improve, I wouldn’t have been able to progress as much in my F1 career. I appreciate him, and I know we’ll keep in touch.”

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