Tsunoda: “Fantastic job” by AlphaTauri F1 to improve the car after difficult Friday at Abu Dhabi GP

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It was another outstanding qualifying performance from Yuki Tsunoda in 2023 as the Japanese driver put in a lap good enough for P6 on the grid for tomorrow’s finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The 23-year-old had struggled in Friday practice as he was outpaced by Daniel Ricciardo in both sessions, only managing P10 and P15.

Tsunoda conceded post-qualifying that it was an unexpected result.

“Yeah, definitely. Didn’t expect this high of a position.

“Yesterday we struggled lot.”

AlphaTauri brought a sizable floor update to the Yas Marina circuit. Following a difficult run for most of the campaign, the team has made some serious improvements in the closing part of 2023.

The Japanese driver admitted it took some time for him to feel comfortable in the car as the balance changed substantially because of the upgrade.

“In terms of upgrades, definitely on paper it seems better. It definitely gave us a step forward.

“In terms of balance itself, it was a lot different compared to the previous races — that made us slip a little bit backwards.”

However, things got much better on Saturday. Tsunoda managed to place himself P9 in final practice, nine places and a couple of tenths ahead of Ricciardo.

Then in qualifying, he was 3rd to the Red Bulls in Q1. He backed it up with P8 in Q2 as he made it through — but teammate Ricciardo didn’t as seven places and 0.235s was the difference between the pair.

In Q3, he delivered a 0.239s compared to his Q2 time to beat Alonso, Hülkenberg, Perez and Gasly to 6th on the grid.

Tsunoda praised his team for the excellent turnaround.

“Step by step every session, we were able to progress through the sessions — that gave me extra confidence into qualifying.

“Yesterday to today was a lot different. I felt much better. The team did a fantastic job with that.

“It was a great qualifying.”

A mere 0.702s covered the top 15 in Q2. Tsunoda has backed Ricciardo to make up ground tomorrow evening when asked about the difference to his stablemate.

“At the same time, the field was really so so close. He was not really that far away.

“For me it was just a good day. I’m sure he’ll come back stronger again tomorrow and see how it goes.”

AlphaTauri need to outscore Williams by eight points tomorrow to steal away P7 in the Constructors’ Championship.

With Perez, Hamilton and Sainz all behind him on the grid, Tsunoda faces a tough task to maintain his starting spot.

“There are a couple of fast cars behind — but at the same time degradation seems quite high. Maybe something surprising happens tomorrow.

“We put it all together. We do all what we can do, that’s the most important thing. And we keep it clean, that’s it.”

Should Tsunoda finish P6 and Williams fail to get either car in the top 9, AlphaTauri would take P7 by a single point after 22 races this year.

If Albon or Sargeant finished P10 with the Japanese driver in 6th, they would be level. AlphaTauri’s P6 would be the best result for either team in 2023, though.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool