In an exclusive interview with Paddock Magazine, Japan’s F1 hero, Yuki Tsunoda, revealed the top three areas in which he has improved the most since his F1 debut. And, more importantly, is he ready for a top seat? Let’s find out!

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There have been some ups and downs in terms of car performance this season, but you scored more than twice the number of points your teammate scored [till the Spanish GP]. Is this your strongest season in Formula 1 so far?

Yuki Tsunoda: Yes, I would say so. Obviously, the overall result is always a combination of car performance and your performance. Last year was already decent, but we struggled a lot with the car’s performance. To answer your question, that would be a yes. I’m in very good shape now, and I’d also like to highlight my mentality and approach to how I go into the race weekend. This is my best season in Formula 1 so far.

From your perspective, what are the main factors behind your impressive performance this year?

YT: Self-control and stress management are two of the main factors behind my impressive performance this year. I focus more on the feedback from the engineers, and I always try to control myself in the car so as not to lose focus. Since Saudi Arabia, I have made further progress in terms of controlling my emotions, and so far, it’s been relatively consistent. So yeah, improving self-control and stress management helped me develop how I build up the race weekend and focus only on driving and feedback, which eventually enhances my performance.

This is my best season in Formula 1 so far

Yuki Tsunoda

You touched on the angry radio outbursts – you’ve got a new performance coach for this year. Does John also help you with the mental side of things? And in general, how important is a coach in the daily life of an F1 driver?

YT: Self-control is something that I was working on last year as well, so it’s not directly coming from John. Actually, Michael (Italiano) helped me quite a lot with that before. As for John, I especially like his approach; he helped me a lot mentally. He’s giving me a lot of positive energy, and it’s always fun to chat with him. I have a very good relationship with him outside the racetrack as well. You’re mainly in the engineering room, in the car, or chatting with the media. Whenever I want to have some relaxing periods, I can talk with him; he’s the guy who can keep me mentally calm and consistent. John is supportive and my relationship with the physio is not all about business and training; it’s more like a friendship. We’re very open to each other.

Based on pure statistics, Daniel Ricciardo is your strongest teammate so far. Is he the toughest one to beat?

YT: It’s hard to say. I’m thinking between Pierre and Daniel. While driving alongside Pierre, I wasn’t in the shape I’m in right now. Pierre is definitely strong, just like Daniel. He’s very consistent, and I can tell he has a lot of experience and a winning mindset – he’s won 8 races in Formula 1. I can’t compare him with Pierre; they’re both powerful drivers. At the same time, I could learn many things from them; however, both are different characters. I had a very good relationship with Pierre, both on and off track. He was an excellent teammate at the beginning of my F1 career. I’m very fortunate that I could work alongside Pierre for three years. Now, with Daniel, I think it was good timing for me because, eventually, I want to continuously improve myself as a driver. One of Daniel’s strengths is his mindset—it’s very consistent. He doesn’t get bothered with anything, so both are very strong drivers.

He [Daniel Ricciardo], brings a lot of smiles and positive energy to the engineering room

Yuki Tsunoda

What is it like to work with Daniel? Is he also easygoing during internal meetings?

YT: Yes, he is. He brings a lot of smiles and positive energy to the engineering room. He’s very mature, and I respect him a lot. He’s easygoing, and building a good relationship with him is easy. His former teammates probably share the same opinion.

Dr. Marko recently said that you’re a top driver. However, he can sometimes be tough on drivers—is he just a brutally honest person?

YT: He’s just a very open person and doesn’t say any nonsense. He cares a lot about drivers, which is a good thing. At the same time, sometimes he can be challenging, but he’s just being open and honest. All in all, he’s a very open person, and he’s never hiding anything. Some drivers might take it very strictly, but I think he’s just a very open and helpful person.

Do you feel ready for a seat at a top team?

YT: Yes, anytime. I’m ready for that; I’m confident in my abilities, and I’m determined to keep on proving that I’m ready and deserve a top seat.

Can you name the top 3 areas in which you’ve improved the most since your Formula 1 debut?

YT: Self-control is definitely one of those areas. Let me think, that’s a really difficult question… The other two would be stress management and teamwork.

I’m determined to keep on proving that I’m ready and deserve a top seat.

Yuki Tsunoda

How important is it mentally that your contract was extended early in the season?

YT: Honestly, I can’t feel that it reduced the pressure or anything. Of course, it feels good to have a contract for next year, but I wasn’t stressing about it. In general, there’s always pressure here, regardless of the context of your contract. It’s a good thing that I don’t have to think about the contract extension anymore, so there’s one less to think about. Eventually, it helps to be more focused on the actual work with the team and the quality of feedback.

We often see you wearing very fashionable clothes. Do you have a favourite brand, and how many clothes do you have in your wardrobe?

YT: My favourite brand recently is Sacai, a Japanese brand. They’re collaborating with some very famous people. It’s getting bigger and bigger – on the other hand, it’s getting more expensive due to their collaborations. The price increase is a little bit sad, but I love Sacai. Other than that, in my opinion, all branded clothes have become very expensive, so I also like to buy just some random stuff. I like going around and shopping in London and buying random stuff that I’ve never seen or heard about. As for my wardrobe, I’m not entirely sure how many clothes I have because I’m not buying many random garments. I like sticking to several brands, but I have over 50 or 100 clothes.


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