Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda revealed he spent time learning from Fernando Alonso while running behind the two-time Formula 1 champion in the Bahrain Grand Prix before making a move en route to scoring points on his debut.
Tsunoda’s father was a huge Alonso fan when his son was growing up and when he found himself behind the Spaniard in the race he took full advantage to brush up on his skills.
The 20-year-old finished ninth, becoming the first debutant to score points since Stoffel Vandoorne in 2016 and the first Japanese driver to score points since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012.
“I'm really happy for the first points and really positive learning for the future,” he said. “I was too cautious on the first lap and lost quite a lot of positions. I had to recover and that took a lot of time, so it’s not 100 per cent performance.
“[But] I enjoyed this race week. In the race, especially overtaking a lot of cars was a really positive thing and good learning. I got emotional when I passed Fernando.
“Last time I saw him 12 or 13 years ago, when I was seven or eight years old. My father is quite a lot Fernando’s fan, especially his driving style. My father likes how he drives.
“I think the first time my dad saw Fernando was in Suzuka and he said he was the best driver on the grid. So I was of course aiming for Fernando, and I drove with him a couple of laps
“I definitely learned from him how he is managing the tyre, how he drives, every corner, and after I passed him I just tried to copy how he was driving and a couple of corners were better for my car as well.”
Alonso is back on the grid this season after two years away and the two-time world champion admitted he felt almost like a rookie himself as he eased himself back into F1 with his new Alpine team.
Tsunoda’s Honda-powered AlphaTauri currently appears to have more pace than the Renault-powered Alpine machine and the Japanese driver was soon able to make a pass, even if he admitted it was a rather risky one.
“I just trusted Fernando’s skills and just launched it, like a rookie,” said Tsunoda. “I feel a bit sorry but I really launched it from quite far away, so it feels a bit emotional. Of course, it’s not the same car but I was happy for that.
“The things I learned from him will be good for the future. Hopefully I don’t have to drive next time with him because I want to be more forwards to start. I’m not saying Fernando is bad! The car situation is different.“
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