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F1 Driver Yuki Tsunoda Aiming to Keep the Momentum Going at Japanese Grand Prix

Now in his fourth season in Formula One, RB driver Yuki Tsunoda had his best result of the 2024 season at the Australian Grand Prix on March 24.

Yuki Tsunoda will have a lot riding on the upcoming Formula One Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, April 7.

The RB driver is coming off his best performance of the 2024 season when he finished eighth at the Australian Grand Prix on March 24 to score points for the first time this year.

Tsunoda was bumped up to seventh after the race at the Albert Park Circuit thanks to a post-race penalty to Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso and received six points for his effort.

After missing out on the points in the first two races ― Bahrain (March 2) and Saudi Arabia (March 9) ― Tsunoda was thrilled with the results in Melbourne.

"The team did a fantastic job throughout the week," Tsunoda said of the results in Australia. "I would say I'm very happy with my performance."

Added Tsunoda, "I think particularly, we were very consistent."

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda competes in qualifying on March 23 for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. (Robert Cianflone/GETTY IMAGES/RED BULL CONTENT POOL)

Tsunoda made progress in 2023, delivering 17 of AlphaTauri's 25 points. Since then, the Red Bull-owned team was renamed to Visa Cash App RB for the 2024 season.

The Japanese driver has been mentioned as a potential candidate for promotion to the Red Bull top team in 2025. A strong performance at Mie Prefecture's Suzuka Circuit would definitely bolster those chances.

Yuki Tsunoda
RB's Yuki Tsunoda participates in preseason testing on February 21 at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Hamad I Mohammed/REUTERS)

Yuki Tsunoda Faces Challenges at Home Circuit

With the Suzuka Circuit boasting some high-speed corners similar to Albert Park, Tsunoda is hoping for a breakthrough on home soil.

"The track itself is very high-speed and at the same time very risky," Tsunoda said on Thursday. 

"Once you step out of the track you end up in the wall," added the 23-year-old native of Kanagawa Prefecture. "So you know a bit of fear as well. It's definitely my favorite track. I never get bored there."

So far, the Suzuka track hasn't been particularly kind to Tsunoda. He finished 12th in the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix for the then AlphaTauri team, just missing out on the points, and 13th in the rain-hit 2022 event, his F1 debut at the legendary circuit.

"Last year I was able to go through to Q3 so that was very good," said Tsunoda, referring to the third qualifying session at Suzuka.

"I achieved the target but at the same time, I wasn't able to score points yet the last two years, so hopefully, I can achieve that this year."

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda signs autographs for fans on March 21 in the run-up to the Australian Grand Prix. (Jaimi Joy/REUTERS)

Follow the Drama at the Japanese Grand Prix

The Japanese GP was traditionally held in autumn and quite often had championship implications. 

That's not the case now. F1 officials moved the race to April in order to streamline travel. But there will still be plenty of drama nonetheless.

Championship leader and reigning world champion Max Verstappen arrives in Japan looking to get back to his winning ways after a rare hiccup in Melbourne.

With plumes of smoke exiting the rear of his car, the Red Bull driver was forced to retire after just three laps for the first time in two years.

Carlos Sainz led a Ferrari 1-2 finish in Australia ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is seen at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 7 ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Rula Rouhana/REUTERS)

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A State of Turmoil for Red Bull

Red Bull has been in a state of turmoil this season despite Verstappen winning the first two races.

Team principal Christian Horner has been fighting off complaints of alleged misconduct by a team employee. While Horner has denied any wrongdoing, the accusations have been a huge distraction.

Shortly after this news came out, Verstappen's father Jos was quoted by British and Dutch newspapers as saying the team "will explode" if Horner stays in charge.

The early exit in Australia will do nothing to calm the waters at Red Bull.

Rumors are already swirling that Verstappen may jump ship and join Mercedes next year to replace Lewis Hamilton, who is heading to Ferrari.

That has led to speculation that Tsunoda may be heading to Red Bull.

Tsunoda won't be the only Japanese driver taking to the Suzuka track this weekend.

Ayumu Iwasa speaks at a talk show on April 2 in Tokyo. (©SANKEI)

Iwasa to Make F1 Debut in Practice

RB has announced that Super Formula racer Ayumu Iwasa will make his Formula One weekend debut at Suzuka by appearing in free practice with the team.

The 22-year-old Iwasa is set to drive Daniel Ricciardo's car during the first practice session at Suzuka meaning an all-Japanese RB lineup for the opening 60-minute session on Friday.

Iwasa finished fourth in last year's F2 standings, taking three race victories and three further podiums across the season, along with one pole position.

He made the move to the Japan-based Super Formula Championship for 2024, scoring points in his debut at the Suzuka opener on March 11.

"I'll be driving for FP1 of F1 Japanese GP!" Iwasa posted on social media. "I'm so excited to drive [an] F1 car again ... and it's my first official session of F1."

Qualifying for Sunday's race is on Saturday.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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