Tsunoda will give “a good letter of recommendation” if he maintains strong start to 2024 F1 season — Marko

Helmut Marko with Yuki Tsunoda at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
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Speaking after the Miami Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko praises Yuki Tsunoda following his impressive drive to P7 while putting rumours of Ricciardo’s exit to bed.

Following a stellar performance to come home P7 in the Miami Grand Prix, Yuki Tsunoda has gained the praise of Red Bull Driver Development head Helmut Marko. The young Japanese driver currently sits P10 in the Drivers’ Championship, 9 points clear of Lance Stroll in P11.

Speaking to SpeedWeek.com, Marko hinted that Tsunoda’s recent run of form, with the exception of the Chinese Grand Prix, puts him in a prime position to retain his seat at RB.

“Tsunoda is certainly on the rise, if it hadn’t been for the China race,” Marko told SpeedWeek. “But it’s hard to say whether it was the car or the driver. There was simply no speed from the first laps onwards. 

“But if Yuki continues to drive like he did in the rest of the races, then it will certainly be a good letter of recommendation that he is giving.”

Marko also discussed Daniel Ricciardo’s place in the team, paying compliments to the Aussies stellar performance in Saturday’s sprint to secure P4 and score his first points of the season. Marko explained Ricciardo’s pace in the low speed third sector of the track allowed him to gain the required time to hold his position. 

He continued on to explain a mistake in Q1 ahead of the Grand Prix caused Ricciardo’s early exit from qualifying, a knock which he failed to bounce back from.

“Daniel Ricciardo delivered a remarkable performance in the sprint,” he said. “Fourth place was a sensation and he set the time in Sector 3. This sector consists mainly of slow curves. If you drive exactly there, you will gain an incredible amount of time. And if you make a mistake, it’s doubly punishing because of the slow speed.

“That happened to Yuki Tsunoda, and three hours later, Ricciardo made a mistake where he achieved his fourth place. This meant he was out of the window in qualifying and was eliminated in Q1.

“But that wasn’t all, because Ricciardo never got up to speed in the race either. Yuki set consistently fast times, while Ricciardo lacked the speed and confidence that was still evident in the sprint.”

Marko then went on to discuss the pervasive rumours of Ricciardo’s exit from the team in favour of Liam Lawson, who filled in for Ricciardo following an injury last season. Marko states plainly that there are no plans in place to make the change.

The rumours that Ricciardo will be replaced by Liam Lawson at Imola are nonsense,” Marko added. “Liam’s manager from New Zealand was there, apparently he has certain dreams and they are made known through some media — including from New Zealand. Nothing at all is planned in Imola. But of course we will look at this in the future.”