Tsunoda admits he “didn’t expect this much performance” after securing season-best qualifying result at F1 Imola GP

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After a stellar weekend in Miami, Yuki Tsunoda continues to impress in Imola. 

Tsunoda was on the pace pretty much straight away, finishing Friday’s FP2 session an encouraging third. 

Qualifying brought further excitement for RB, as Tsunoda secured his highest starting position of the season with seventh place, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo made his first Q3 appearance of the year.

The Japanese driver was third on the timesheet as Q2 drew to a close, right up there with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and reigning champion Max Verstappen. Reflecting on his performance, Tsunoda admitted he found his final Q3 attempt lacking and felt he could have done even better.

“Yeah, strong results throughout the week and to be honest I’m not really happy with my lap in Q3. I could have done for sure much better than that, but until then the team gave us such a nice car since FP1 and feeling confidence throughout the week, so without that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this kind of one set in Q2. So, yeah, very happy for them, very happy and thanks for that.

“To be honest I didn’t expect this much performance from the car, so it’s hard to tell, but normally we struggle in high speed. We didn’t see big difference compared to previous races, compared to top five teams, so for sure something to understand properly going forward because, I mean, this much performance to be honest I didn’t expect.”

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix holds special significance for the Faenza-based RB, one of the two Italian teams on the grid. Their factory is located just a short drive from the Imola circuit, making it a home race for the team.

“Maybe home race power, I don’t know,” Tsunoda joked.

While the likes of Alpine and Williams have taken a step backwards compared to their 2023 form, RB has quietly solidified its position as one of the strongest midfield teams. Tsunoda’s consistent performances have been instrumental in the team’s success.

Asked whether RB could feasibly find themselves among the top five teams on the grid this year, Tsunoda said, “For sure, it’s…I think we started to actually be, I mean, maybe top six. So, I mean, obviously this is characteristic amount of, you know, how much we can suit well to the track or not, but, yeah, so far every track we’re performing well, and since Miami upgrades performing super well, so kind of confirmed.

“But at the same time we always keep our mind sharp, we know that it won’t happen like this every time. We know where we’re weak, so just keep pushing.”

Tsunoda confirmed that he’s feeling more confident in the car compared to the start of the season.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said.

“I think also, I would say from the first race, there’s a lot of opportunity to score points, that we weren’t able to, operationally, to put it all together and lost a lot of opportunities, for example, Saudi and Bahrain.”

Tsunoda pointed out that the team was in a transition period at the start of the season, as it underwent some organisational changes following the retirement of long-time team principal Franz Tost last year. He was replaced by ex-Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies. 

“And I think as a team, we kind of expected it, because it’s a new team and a lot of people are new, they needed to blend in properly,” he said. “But now everyone’s working really well and we don’t have much mistakes, so also there’s a reason for that.”

He went on to praise the efforts of everyone involved, saying: “I think as a team we did very well. Congrats to all of the team and obviously Daniel as well, showing how much pace we have in the car and the amount of hard [work] people do in the factory, I think more than we think for sure.

“So congrats to them, big credit to them, and just for us, just keep focusing on extra performance in the car as much as possible.”