RED BULL will be keeping close tabs on a driver with the potential to partner Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton in April
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Red Bull will be paying close attention to Yuki Tsonuda’s ‘three-year schedule’ as they survey candidates to partner Max Verstappen in the future. AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost has discussed the plan for the Japanese star, who will be fully aware that a step up to sister team Red Bull could be on the cards if he performs well.
Tsunoda took a while to get up to speed in F1 after making the leap in 2021. The 22-year-old trailed miles behind team-mate Pierre Gasly in the Drivers’ Championship, but a late surge saw him finish with a respectable 32 points.
AlphaTauri have struggled for pace this year compared to last, but he’s already a lot closer to Gasly with just a five-point difference between them. The team have had to take the rough with the smooth, however, and last time out in Hungary both drivers finished out of the points with Tsunoda crossing the line as the final finisher.
Tost claims that Tsunoda, who is now well into his second year with AlphaTauri, will have a chance to truly prove his worth and potentially impress the Red Bull bosses if he earns enough credit to be handed a third year in F1.
Max Verstappen has a healthy lead in the Drivers’ Championship as he powers towards his second title (Image: GETTY)
“Yuki is on that three-year schedule,” he told Racingnews365. “A first season has just flown by for such a young driver. There are so many new things coming to him, many circuits that he does not know and qualifying is always new for a driver.
“How does the sun shine? How much does the temperature change? How does the wind blow? That sort of thing. You need experience for that. During the second year you learn all this better, but to really go into the details, you have a third year. After that third season you have a really good idea of a driver and whether he is good enough or not.”
Sergio Perez is currently alongside Verstappen at Red Bull and the Mexican recently signed a new contract that looks to have cemented his position until 2024. At 32 years old, however, there could be scope for team principal Christian Horner to seek out alternative options once that deal expires.
Gasly can tell Tsunoda all about the difficulties that come with stepping up from AlphaTauri – formerly known as Toro Rosso – to Red Bull. His brief promotion ended with the Frenchman being sent back to where he came from as he struggled to keep pace with Verstappen in 2019.
As it stands, Tsunoda is out of contract at the end of the season and, despite the supposed three-year schedule, Tost has given the 22-year-old some incentive to keep pushing.
Yuki Tsunoda is into the final year of his contract with AlphaTauri (Image: GETTY)
“The choice is up to Red Bull whether or not to continue with Yuki, but of course he has to perform,” he added. “We have had drivers before who did not perform and then were sent away from Red Bull after one or two years.
“We will see. It is difficult to say who else would be in the seat. There are some drivers in Formula 2, but do they have the experience and the speed to make the step to the premier class next year? is difficult to say, because there are still a lot of races to go this year.”