Yuki Tsunoda admits his situation has “completely changed” at Red Bull-owned Alpha Tauri.
Before teammate Nyck de Vries’ axing just prior to the Hungarian GP, Japanese Tsunoda was dominating at the junior Red Bull outfit – and clearly a contender for a future Red Bull Racing seat.
But de Vries’ replacement, Daniel Ricciardo, is now arguably in pole position to succeed Sergio Perez at the top team beyond 2024 – with Dr Helmut Marko declaring that “it is clear that this means he has to beat Tsunoda”.
Ricciardo’s first outing in Hungary was more impressive than Tsunoda’s performance in the sister car – with the 23-year-old Japanese admitting he was “learning lots of things” from his new and famous Australian teammate.
“I think Daniel gives more information and more places that I have to improve,” Tsunoda said.
“The situation has completely changed for me,” he added. “Now my teammate is not only experienced but also very fast. I have felt that already.”
Ricciardo, however, struggled more at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend, with the former grand prix winner not just blaming the inclement conditions.
“Even in the dry it was very difficult for me,” he said. “I was always close to cars that were really fast on the straight and I just couldn’t break away from the back of the field.
“Then it seemed like the others were able to squeeze more out of their tyres. So I’m eager to get back behind the wheel and see where we can get better.
“But I don’t want to get too upset,” Ricciardo, 33, added. “The race was the only dry session of the entire weekend, so it could have just been the setup.
“I’m glad I was able to do the whole race. Lots of feedback for the team,” he said after finishing 16th – while Tsunoda managed to score a rare point.”
Tsunoda was happy to have performed better at Spa than he did in Hungary, but he admits that “the pressure is much higher now”.
“Because of that, I made a couple of mistakes. But in Spa I was able to put it all together in the race. It wasn’t easy, but I’m happy and ready to fight Daniel in the second half of the season,” he said.