Tsunoda recalls 'emotional' Alonso pass, Brawn hails him as 'best F1 rookie in years'

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Yuki Tsunoda has been praised as Formula 1's "best rookie in years" after claiming P9 on debut in Bahrain.

The AlphaTauri driver was unlucky in qualifying as a gamble to use medium tyres in Q2 backfired, leaving the Japanese 13th on the grid.

In the race, however, he showed off the aggressive overtaking that was promised, including on the last lap against Lance Stroll to take two points back to Europe.

"I’m really impressed with Yuki Tsunoda," said F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn in his column for Formula1.com.

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"I met him at the weekend for the first time and he’s a really impressive character. He is quite amusing and his language in the car can be a bit fruity!

"He showed some brilliant spells in the race, which is encouraging considering it was his first F1 race.

"He is the best rookie F1 has had for years, having been fairly stunning in whatever series he has competed in," he added. "His promotion by Red Bull looks like a brilliant move.

"We can all remember the glorious days of full grandstands at Suzuka and the passion of the Japanese fans. I think we are going to have that again, which is incredibly exciting."

As for Tsunoda himself, it was a glass half full kind of day despite his impressive result.

"I’m glad to get points," he said. "I lost quite a lot of positions on the first lap, that was my big mistake and I had to recover from there.

"I’m happy 50 per cent, but still 50 per cent it was my big mistake.

"It was possible to go more forward for positions, so first points feel ok, but I think there was a lot of space to improve this race in Imola."

One moment that will stick with Tsunoda though was his first on-track overtake on Fernando Alonso from a long way back into Turn 1.

“My father is quite a big Fernando fan, especially his driving style,” he revealed.

“The first time my dad saw Fernando was at Suzuka and he said his acceleration from the last corner is the best of any driver on the grid. So, of course, I also followed Fernando.

“So, into Turn 1, I just trusted Fernando’s skills and just launched it — you know, like a rookie. I felt a bit sorry about it, but I just launched it from pretty far away.

"It was a little bit emotional," he confessed of passing the Spaniard. "The last time I saw Alonso racing was 13 years ago – I was watching at Fuji Speedway when he was driving for McLaren and Renault. I’m really proud.

"I was really happy that I overtook him, of course it’s not the same car, but yeah, I was happy."