How well will Yuki Tsunoda drive his maiden (first ever) home race at Japan, which happens to be the Japanese Grand Prix of 2022 is a question that will perhaps be in everyone’s mind. But before we engage in speculation or participate in guesswork, here’s some truth.
Not for the first time is a driver hailing from one of the most enigmatic countries of the world is all set to enter his home race, i.e., the Japanese Grand Prix. And this certainly won’t be the last time!
Finally, a Japanese driver entering the Japanese GP
In the past, several from the land also called ‘Nippon’ have entered a Formula 1 race at Japan. The most notable names in that regard include talents like- Takuma Sato (also known as Taku), Kazuki Nakajima and arguably speaking, the most popular of all Japanese drivers to have entered Formula 1: Kamui Kobayashi.
As a matter of fact, the last that an F1 grid featured a Japanese driver prior to Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri was back in 2014.
It was precisely on the fifth of October, 2014 that Kamui Kobayashi drove at Sukua. The driver with 75 race starts to his name ended his F1 journey gathering a solitary podium and one fastest lap. That’s it.
In fact, in his final Japanese GP, he was able to score only a P19; maybe not the best possible result for such a talented driver. Interestingly, the only Formula 1 podium that Kobayashi, 36 (in 2022), scored came at Suzuka, the home of the Japanese Grand Prix. That was back in 2012.
Therefore, the challenge of sorts that lies ahead of Yuki Tsunoda is that not once since 2012 has a Japanese driver stood on the podium here in the far east of Asia.
What Yuki Tsunoda has ahead of him
And while expecting a podium from the avid youngster from Sagamihara would be a touch ludicrous, if not entirely implausible, it suffices to say that Yuki Tsunoda has quite a few challenges at his hands.
On the bright side, the 22-year-old has a lot of time on his hands in that his F1 career has only just begun. If you are, practically speaking, beginning your home Grand Prix for the very first time with just 37 race starts against your name, then surely there’s much time left.
But having said that, Yuki Tsunoda would be conscious of the fact that his qualifying performance is anything but unhelpful for his Alpha Tauri team.
For starters, his was the only Alpha Tauri AT03 that was able to make it to Q2 after a disastrous session for his teammate Pierre Gasly.
Second, in gathering a P13 upon the end of his quali run, Yuki has managed to usurp names like Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Alex Albon.
This is clearly not a bad performance or is it?
But the icing on the cake or the cherry on the blossom since it’s Japan would be if Yuki Tsunoda can convert a P13 start on the grid into a finish inside points.
Should he do that in the next few hours, it would be nothing shy of sensational. If not, there’s plenty of time and races ahead for the talented youngster who, lest it is forgotten, scored points on his F1 debut (2021 Bahrain).
Moreover, there’ll be an added impetus for Tsunoda to do well at Japan given his contemporaries have never won a Japanese Grand Prix in the past. In fact, the best result earned by anyone at the venue of the famous 130 R has been the podium finish by Kobayashi and after that, the P4 by Takuma Sato in 2004.
Should Yuki manage to go better in the years to follow, he would undoubtedly be the most happening son of Japan, the land known as the land of the rising sun.