Tsunoda surprised by rapid rise to F1, 'really excited' for Suzuka debut

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Yuki Tsunoda admits he didn't expect to reach Formula 1 so soon as he prepares for his rookie season in 2021.

The Japanese driver joins Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri after just one year each in F3 and F2, much like George Russell and Charles Leclerc.

A notable difference was the current Williams and Ferrari drivers both won those championships whereas Tsunoda did not.

But after recovering from a tricky start to finish third in the final F2 standings, the 20-year-old earned his chance alongside Pierre Gasly.

“No, not really!!" he said on if joining the F1 grid felt a realistic target at the beginning of last year.

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"To reach Formula 1 - which was my final goal as a driver - you don’t just have to deliver results, you also need some luck, and this is something you can’t control.

"From my side, I knew I always had to give my best at all times. It was in my hands to stand out and impress the bosses, who can make your dream come true. In every series, you need to develop a strong pace very quickly, so I was committed to doing well right from the start of my career.

"It was good to show what I could achieve in my inaugural year in F2 and I’m so happy to have graduated to F1 so quickly.”

Tsunoda has been preparing for his debut with test days in all three previous AlphaTauri cars in Italy and Abu Dhabi and offered his first impressions of the squad.

“It’s a very friendly team and I’m confident I can work well with them," he said.

"I like their passion and how they prepare for events. It’s been a good relationship from the beginning, so it should only improve as we get to learn more about each other through the season.

"I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Scuderia AlphaTauri ahead of the season so I’m already learning a lot from them and continuing to develop strong relationships with the whole team.”

Asked what differences he's noticed and expects between F2 and F1, Yuki explained: “The speed of the cars, of course, is a huge difference but also the fact that the season is much longer.

"It will also be necessary for me to remain well trained and strong, both physically and mentally, to cover 23 races with minimal downtime

"On a technical side, there are many differences and it’s quite a big step up. There are a lot of complex procedures, which I will need to learn as quickly as possible, and the team is so much larger that there are a lot more engineers to report to, this will also be a big difference from F2.”

Finally, Tsunoda revealed what he's looking forward to most in 2021, with his answer being somewhat predictable.

“I’m really excited to get started and am particularly looking forward to racing in Suzuka, in front of the Japanese fans," he said.

"The last time I raced in Suzuka was in Formula 4 - so it will be a big difference - but I’m really excited to now get the opportunity to represent my country in F1.

"The biggest thing for me though will be lining up on the grid with so many superstars of the sport – it’s an absolute honour to be competing against some of the greatest drivers in the world.”