Being a rookie in any sport is difficult enough and Formula 1 is no different. The learning curve is a steep climb when you are on the grid with the world’s best and that is compounded by the fact that you are still honing your own race craft among those who have mastered the art of driving these cars.
The frustration can be debilitating and we’ve seen many rookies flounder their way out of the sport over the decades. We’ve also seen that pressure and frustration manifest in both outbursts and silent collapse.
In the case of Alpha Tauri driver, Yuki Tsunoda, the pressure is mounting and his most recent comments to the press didn’t go over well with the team. After a challenging qualifying, Yuki said:
“It’s always different feedback compared to my team-mate, even when we try the opposite,” Tsunoda told television reporters. “I have a little bit question mark [if it] is the same car – of course it’s the same car, but just the character of the car is just too different.
“Maybe, of course, it’s a different driving style. But yeah, I don’t know, I don’t understand what happened, why I’m struggling this much.”
His teammate, Pierre Gasly, had his own brush with rookie pressure being promoted and demoted within the Red Bull team in the same season. There were moments when Pierre was very candid in the press but didn’t imply anything untoward. Perhaps quizzical or contemplative but he kept his head down and resurrected his F1 career.
Biting the hand the feeds isn’t always the best practice and Yuki later apologized for his outburst on social media saying:
“I wanted to apologize for my comments today,” he wrote. “I didn’t mean to criticize the team who have done a great job all weekend. I was just frustrated with my performance. Full send tomorrow.”
He learned the lesson quickly that one doesn’t accuse Franz Tost or Helmut Marko and he quickly recanted. To be fair to Yuki, he isn’t the first to imply unequal treatment. That has been done several times before and even Lewis Hamilton has implied similar things.
The difference here is that Yuki is a rookie and while many like he’s outspoken, profanity-laced outbursts on the radio and chalk it up to passion, the team would prefer he keep his concerns about the team private.
As a rookie, he may be struggling with the F1 car but in the end, he has to consider that Pierre Gasly may simply be much quicker than he is and much more adaptable to the car, tires and track. In time, Yuki will find his race craft, understand the cars and tires better and no doubt start to move forward but it takes time and given the short shelf life of an F1 driver these days in the Red Bull program, his impatience might be understood.