RB’s Bayer: Tsunoda now ‘mentally on a different level’


RB F1 team chief executive Peter Bayer says he’s witnessed Yuki Tsunoda’s remarkable transformation this season.

After a challenging third year with AlphaTauri in 2023, Tsunoda appears to have taken a significant step forward, both physically and mentally according to Bayer.

While luck played a role in his run to seventh in the Australian Grand Prix in which he benefitted from the retirements of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, his P10 finish in his home race at Suzuka last weekend was achieved on merit.

A lacklustre start on the medium tyre had set him back a couple of spots on the opening lap of the race.

However, shod with the soft tyre on the event’s restart after a red flag halted proceedings he executed a series of spectacular overtakes to stake his claim from the outset on a top-ten finish.

“He said he went out with the samurai spirit,” commented Bayer, quoted by Motorsport.com. “I think it was an amazing achievement for him in front of the home crowd and Honda.

“Somebody told me it is the first time [for a local driver] since 2012 when [Kamui] Kobayashi scored [points] in a Japanese GP, so a great achievement from Yuki, honestly.

“It was an immaculate drive from him, and he was managing the tyres when he had to, he was pushing when he had to. He had great support from the team with that pitstop. Overall, very, very happy with him."

Bayer pointed to Tsunoda's ability to thrive under the intense scrutiny of his home crowd as a sign of his overall mental growth this season.

“That's something that we've seen now at the last couple of races, and he has made such big progress mentally,” said the RB boss.

“Over the winter he made amazing progress physically, but mentally he is on a different level now.

“He's taking this up, and he's taking actually energy from it, rather than being distracted. I think this was certainly a mega drive from him."

Tsunoda’s performances of late, whereby he has outqualified Aston Martin rival Lance Stroll at every race so far, suggests that RB can become a regular top-ten contender.

But Bayer says it’s too early to jump to such a conclusion.

"I have to be careful with that,” he said. “Probably what helped us is that it seemed that initially, Lance didn't get as much out of their upgrade as we initially thought.

“And we have been a bit better here than we thought because we were actually thinking this is not a track for us. Also, our new upgrade is probably more aiming towards the coming races.

“But I have to say that the team is honestly so focused on finding that hundredth here, a tenth here. It's a massive effort where everyone's fighting for it.

“And I think that it's a homogeneous push, and that's probably what allows us to sort of sniff into the top 10.

“What we felt, and that's what we're proud of to a certain extent – this was the first time we are in the top 10 based on race craft, it's not because something happened or someone messed up."

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