Tsunoda able to “show appreciation” for Tost but just missed out on F1 Abu Dhabi GP fairytale finish

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Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool

Scuderia AlphaTauri had a clear objective for Sunday’s twilight F1 2023 season finale, they had to outscore Williams Racing by 8 points for P7 in the Constructors’. The fairytale ending for Team Principal Franz Tost didn’t come to pass as his team finished the season 3 points behind the Grove based manufacturer. Nevertheless, Yuki Tsunoda certainly gave it a good go and his exploits on track saw the F1 fanbase vote the popular Japanese racer Driver of the Day. As Tsunoda told the media post-race “Yeah, I give it everything.”

Scuderia AlphaTauri had to either finish P6 or higher with one of their two drivers or have both finish comfortably in the points. Tsunoda started the race with the necessary grid slot for this – P6 – but due to having seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, two-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion Fernando Alonso and Singapore GP victor Carlos Sainz all scattered through the pack behind him in quicker machinery, even the most optimistic AlphaTauri fan would have been hard pressed to predict the required outcome would come to pass. Meanwhile, with Daniel Ricciardo starting the race in P15, it was all down to Tsunoda to pull off the dream finish for his mentor, friend and boss.

To have any hope, a one stop race was required and to do this tyre management was key as explained by Tsunoda in his post-race remarks to media.

“It was a plan, but we knew that it’s gonna be difficult. Kind of, we were communicating, kind of listening to what the tyres were saying, and we hold them quite well in the first stint so that helps. I think that was a key moment. I think in the end what we’ve done on strategy itself was ok,” Tsunoda explained.

The one stop approach ensured that there was a storybook moment in the race, even if not the storybook ending for Red Bull Racing’s sister team.

Due to staying out on track longer than those around him, there was a short period when Tsunoda led the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This was only the second time in history that a Japanese driver has led a Formula 1 race and Chief Race Engineer, Jonathan Eddolls, would later remark post-race how this was only the sixth time Franz Tost has seen one of his cars lead a Grands Prix – so rather a poetic way for him to say goodbye to the pinnacle of motorsport.

Speaking of the achievement, Tsunoda explained his thoughts on his team’s moment of history – although one he was not immediately aware of.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I was leading the pack,” said Tsunoda. “So, I was quite surprised about it and looking back, the first half of the season, we never thought about it – leading the pack. So, massive, massive improvements and without the team effort we couldn’t achieve this much.

“The amount that they pushed this year. It was almost every race that we have upgrades, and it was crazy, and they deserved it,”

Tsunoda had always wanted to “give probably the biggest gift to Franz” in the form of the required points for a P7 Constructors’ finish but he was pleased that he could “show at least my performance for kind of an appreciation to him.” A performance warmly received by the F1 fans with a Driver of the Day title awarded to Tsunoda.

Tsunoda left everything on the Yas Marina Circuit and admitted that even with another strategy he doesn’t feel he would have still finished in P6. This mindset was supported by Eddolls as he said in the team’s press release: Both drivers did a fantastic job throughout the race, but in the end, we didn’t quite have enough pace to score the required points. Whatever strategy we could’ve chosen wouldn’t have been enough to overtake Williams.

However, demonstrating a confident attitude which he is all too familiar with, Tost’s post-race remarks differed somewhat to his colleagues: “We split our cars on the strategy side, opting for a one-stop with Yuki and a two-stop for Daniel [Ricciardo]. In the end, it was the wrong decision, because I think with a two-stop strategy we could’ve finished P6 or at least P7 with Yuki, as he was faster than other competitors that overtook him in the final laps.”

When the dust settles, the turnaround achieved by AlphaTauri in 2023 is noteworthy indeed. They struggled with car performance at the start of the season, but relentless upgrades resulted in a battle up to the very last lap in Abu Dhabi. The Faenza based team looked certain to end the season P10 for a fair few races so P8 is some feat based on that. There will of course be regrets for the team when reflecting on the season – with Mexico being fresh in the mind still but it was a brilliant battle – when things at the front of the grid had been decided far earlier in the season.

P7 for Scuderia AlphaTauri would have been a dream finish for the team’s loyal fanbase, but it wasn’t to be. Of course, there is always next year as seasons come and go thick and fast. Next season will also see Scuderia AlphaTauri under their latest change in team name before venturing back into the wind tunnel.

However, the biggest vacuum that will take a good while to even attempt to be able to fill is that of the departure of Franz Tost. A man who has had a hand in a 1/3 of the current F1 grid and to whom so many owe so much. Franz Tost may have said goodbye to F1, but his presence will remain in the pinnacle of motorsport for many more years to come.