Tsunoda has “come a long way” and made a “big step” in regards to feedback and racecraft, says RB F1 technical director Egginton

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This Saturday’s Bahrain Grand Prix is going to be the start of Yuki Tsunoda’s fourth season in Formula One.

The 23-year-old Japanese driver has come on leaps and bounds since his incredibly tough rookie campaign of 2021 with the Faenza-based team.

Last year, Franz Tost explained that a driver becomes complete around three seasons into their time in F1 when discussing Tsunoda.

Speaking at a media session during testing in Bahrain, RB F1 technical director Jody Egginton was asked about this.

The British engineer believes that while Tsunoda has made big gains since his debut three years ago, he’s not the finished article yet.

“I think Yuki’s still improving, still developing, still getting more skills as a driver. I don’t think he’s peaked.

“But yeah, Franz’s comment is valid. After that period of time, there should be enough there to say that this is what he is, this is what he does.

“There’s more to come from him, but he’s certainly come a long way.”

Egginton went on to explain that his raw speed and talent was never in question. It was just a matter of learning in regard to racecraft and cutting out the errors he made in his first year.

“His natural speed was never in doubt. Now he’s building around that into a more consistent driver, improving racecraft, because natural speed is not necessarily always aligned with racecraft.

“So yeah, I think he’s contributing a lot to the team. He’s come a long way.

“He had a pretty good second half to the season last year when we gave him a car that was a little bit easier, more pleasurable to drive.

“I think we’ve got more to come from him, because I still think he’s on that development path. But he’s come a long way.”

Another area where Tsunoda has made considerable progress is feedback about the car, its characteristics and improving things, according to Egginton.

At the start of 2023, AlphaTauri had the slowest car on the grid. However, they could start to fight for points quite often by the end of the season.

“Oh, [he’s made a] big step. Yeah, I think he’s come a long way in that respect.

“I think that’s one of the things that he’s worked really hard on. His level of understanding is good. His contributions are really appreciated, and his confidence increases.”

The RB F1 engineer expanded on the point, explaining how hard it can be initially for a young driver to have the confidence and belief to discuss how they feel the car is handling and give feedback.

Nonetheless, Tsunoda is now able to do that as he worked hard, as well as gaining experience and confidence in the organisation.

“It’s very difficult for young drivers coming into these big teams and seeing everything that’s going on around them and then getting the confidence to be able to contribute and the thing you have to push for.

“Just try to explain what you feel. That’s your starting point, and then you build on that.

“But now he’s got a good data bank, a good reference, and he’s able to call on experience now. And of course when you come in, you’ve got no relevant experience.

“So yeah, I think he’s doing a good job there, because it’s not an easy environment to work in when you first come.

“But he’s worked hard, I have to say. He’s put a lot of effort into it as well.

“It’s probably not been easy to really get to the bottom of some of these complex topics. But yeah, all credit to him. He’s worked hard at that.”

On the other side of the garage, Daniel Ricciardo heads into his 12th full season (14th overall) with bags of experience.

The Australian star began his career at HRT in 2011, and he has driven for Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri/RB F1, Red Bull Racing, Renault and McLaren over the last 13 years.

He has been through a series of regeneration changes, in 2014, 2017 and 2022. His superb knowledge of racing cars and vast levels of experience has helped the team big time since he returned at the Hungarian GP last year, as well as the feedback given by Tsunoda and De Vries during the difficult start to 2023.

“Daniel comes with his fully populated data bank over a series of regulations and other changes, and he calls on that quite well. That’s good.

“His feedback is good, and he’s open to making changes.”

Egginton also praised the drivers and engineers for allowing the team to test many different set-ups during winter testing last week, adding it allowed them to get through a lot of options.

“One of the pleasurable things so far with this test we’ve tried, we’ve moved the set-up around quite a lot, doing things that you wouldn’t necessarily do on a race weekend.

“The buy-in from the drivers and the engineers has been fantastic. That’s why I feel a lot more comfortable, we’ve covered a lot more ground. The drivers are a big part of that.

“They’ve come in with a very open mind. ‘Okay, let’s look at this, let’s look at that’, and bought into everything we tried to do.

“I think the combination of Yuki having a lot more experience now, knowing the team well, knowing his own mind and what he wants, and Daniel having this very wide range of experience and being really motivated to push us all forward, it’s been fantastic really. The environment has been great.”