Yuki Tsunoda says the backing and guidance of AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost – his biggest “supporter” – was instrumental in keeping him on the right track in F1 and preventing him from losing his way.
Over the course of his illustrious 18-year tenure at the Faenza-based outfit, Tost has garnered a well-deserved reputation as a shrewd talent scout and a meticulous mentor to budding F1 drivers.
The 67-year-old outgoing team principal who will retire at the end of the year has played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of some of the sport's most illustrious names, including Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, and Alex Albon.
Tost's mentorship extends far beyond imparting technical expertise and strategic guidance. He takes a holistic approach to driver development, encompassing both on-track performance and personal growth.
The Austrian understands the importance of nurturing mental fortitude and fostering a sense of camaraderie within the team, creating an environment where young drivers feel empowered to push their limits and pursue their dreams.
In 2021, Tsunoda found himself thrust into the demanding world of Formula 1, grappling with the complexities of the new machinery and the intense competition of the sport's elite.
It was a big hurdle for the then 20-year-old who found himself facing a steep learning curve, punctuated by rookie mistakes and frustrating setbacks.
In Abu Dhabi last month, Tsunoda paid a heartfelt tribute to the man that kept him on his rails on the good and the bad days.
“Obviously, without Franz, I'm not here [in F1],” said Tsundoa, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“He is definitely giving me a lot of advice every race. Even in the bad moments, good moments, we share with each other the happiness or sadness. He is always the biggest supporter in the team.
“He always trusts my talent, my speed, everything. Even in the first half of the season when I was struggling in my first year, still he was believing that I can do it.
“Without that kind of good backup, I wouldn't have been able to develop as much as a driver.
“Probably I would rush much more and just lost the way I should have gone. How he treated me in that time was really helpful.”
Developing a young talent is a work in progress over a minimum three-year period according to Tost. Under the latter’s watchful eye, Tsunoda embarked on a challenging journey of adaptation and growth.
“First year, there was multiple reasons, but I wasn’t able to really show a performance in the first half of the season especially” he said.
“But from last year, I started to get better and my confidence getting better. Now I am just really focusing more to be complete driver, not just be fast.
“Also giving feedback for development or how mature you can be in a difficult situation, those are my targets.
“Every year I am able to find my weakness, which is good thing and I have been just working on that.”