Formula 1 enters the final leg of its season this weekend with the first of three race weekends in a row, and the first two of those also see the conclusion of the Formula 2 championship.
After an extremely impressive first season in F2, Honda and Red Bull young driver Yuki Tsunoda enters this weekend’s penultimate round as the leading rookie in the championship, sitting in third place in the standings, 44 points off the lead.
And it’s been a long wait for Tsunoda - as it has for the whole F2 grid - ahead of the final two rounds, having last raced in Russia on September 27.
“I’ve just tried to have a bit of a ‘normal’ life that was similar to before the season started,” Tsunoda says of the break. “The situation now is similar to the UK lockdown we had earlier in the year, so I do my training with my trainer via video call. Otherwise I just chilled out playing video games with Japanese friends, things like that.
“I’ll have to see in practice if it takes longer to get back into a rhythm but I don’t think so. I don’t think anything feels very different compared to Russia. Maybe a tiny bit in the details with things like the start procedure, when you release the clutch, but to recover that I just need to do more practice compared to previous races.
“I drove the Formula 1 car at Imola during the two months break, so I think that also helps to keep my mind sharp and feel the car. There was also a lot of simulator time so I think that’s enough to be ready.”
The test for Scuderia AlphaTauri drew a lot of attention at the time, and while Tsunoda appreciates the significance of his first laps in an F1 car, he was trying to take as much from the experience as possible to improve his performances in this year’s championship.
“I did the 300 kilometres and got some good experience from there that I can use in Formula 2. For example how I warm-up better compared to previous races, and also the car set-up. In Formula 1 you can change everything by yourself, so I understood more than before because on every lap I could test how changes worked. For example more engine braking or brake balance, things like that. It’s definitely useful for my Formula 2 driving.
“You can see from Russia and previous races we always had good pace from free practice, so I also need to let Carlin do their normal thing as they did before, because the pace is already there. There’s no pressure, no rush, just do what we have to do.”
With 48 points available each weekend, he has every chance of taking the title fight to the final two races on Bahrain’s outer circuit next week, but the specific permutations are not something that Tsunoda is allowing to be part of his mindset.
“Of course I want to stay in the title fight until the final round. From the beginning of the year I always aimed to get P1 in the championship, but I will need good results in these two races in Bahrain. I’ll just take it normally, for now focusing on free practice, Turn 1 on the first lap, how I should approach that corner and where I have to brake.
“I will just focus lap-by-lap, corner-by-corner, and I won’t try to think much about the results or the drivers’ championship. Of course I need good points but I think if I focus like that - lap-by-lap - then the results will come automatically. For me I will just focus on the pace.”