Formula 2 racer Yuki Tsunoda has been confirmed to make his Formula 1 debut with the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team in the 2021 campaign. The announcement was a long-awaited one and officially confirms Daniil Kvyat's exit from the team with Tsunoda stepping in his place. The Japanese driver, part of Honda's Junior driver program, will be joining Pierre Gasly in the team next year. Tsunoda made his F2 debut this year alongside Jehan Daruvala at Carlin Motorsport and makes a direct jump to F1 after a single season. With Tsuonoda's entry, Formula 1 will see a Japanese driver on the grid for the first time in nearly a decade since Kamui Kobayashi.
Speaking on his jump to F1, Yuki Tsunoda said, "Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in Formula 1, so I am very happy with this news. I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull, and Dr. Helmut Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course, everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe. I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year. I realize that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them, too."
Franz Tost, Team Principal of Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda said, "Red Bull has been following Yuki's career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team. Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding. During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback. In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps. At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1."
Tsunoda had a fantastic rookie season in F2 and took three wins, four podium finishes, and finished third overall in the drivers' standings at the end of the year. Although he started slow, he gradually moved up in terms of performance and finished third, just one point behind runner-up Callum Ilott. This ensured that he had enough F1 super license points to move up to the pinnacle of single-seater racing. He also gained a reputation for his excellent tyre management and received the Anthoine Hubert Award at the end of the season, which goes to the best 'Rookie of the Year'.
Tsunoda also has prior experience of driving an F1 car and completed a test in November this year in a 2018 car. He has also taken part in the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi with AlphaTauri. Given how Red Bull Racing functions, Tsunoda could see a promotion to the A team from AlphaTauri joining Max Verstappen in the future. However, that will depend on how the driver performs and if he is able to replicate his excellent form from F2. Apart from Tsunoda, F2 drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will also make their F1 debuts next season driving for the Haas F1. Meanwhile, Callum Ilott will be joining Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver next year.