Following Pierre Gasly's exit from AlphaTauri to join Alpine, Yuki Tsunoda transitioned into the more experienced driver within the Red Bull sister team and was looked upon to guide driver feedback and advance car performance.
However, adapting to the role hasn't been without its challenges, as the Japanese driver is still relatively unpracticed compared to others on the grid as he is competing in just his third season in Formula 1.
At the start of the current campaign, Tsunoda was joined at the team by Nyck de Vries, who came armed with a strong racing resumé which included Formula 2 and Formula E titles, but lacked full-time F1 involvement.
Speaking exclusively to RacingNews365, Tsunoda explained how he has stepped into the role left behind by Gasly.
"The team need something like that, a replacement," he says.
"This year Nyck came into the team, he was a rookie and he didn't know much about F1. I already had two years in the team, someone needs to kind of lead or help the team to develop in the same direction."
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'I had to prove myself to AlphaTauri'
Although AlphaTauri struggled for pace in the opening rounds, Tsunoda was praised for his performances as he flirted with the points before scoring a duo of 10th-place results in Australia and Azerbaijan.
Tsunoda revealed that during the opening run of races, he focused on ensuring he presented leadership qualities and mirror the Frenchman with whom he had shared a strong relationship.
"In the last two years, I probably didn't prove enough to be a leader like Pierre so I focused on the first couple of races to prove myself that I'm fast enough, I'm good enough to make results consistently," he says.
"I think I've achieved that and I can feel more support from the team. They listen more to my feedback, so I focused more on feedback and how I can say things specifically - the limitations, what the improvements we need to make the car better or the team better.
"I'm doing what Pierre was doing, but I'm doing it my way. But so far the team is happy with it, we are able to show big progress through the year.
"It is probably not as much as other teams made, which is a shame, but we are still happy with how much progress we are making. Consistently we are able to show good performance, which is an important thing.”
"I can feel more support from the team. They listen more to my feedback"
'Gasly relationship still the same'
Although they no longer share a garage, the relationship between Tsunoda and Gasly has not been tainted by the latter's decision to jump ship.
"It's still the same. You don't lose that relationship, he's still in the paddock," Tsunoda continues.
"So when I always see him I say hello and chat with him a little bit. it's good, we enjoy it. In Italy, for the first time, we were actually able to really catch up, really properly.”
Tsunoda is in a unique position as he has been pitched against four drivers across the year, three of those being in the last handful of months.
After de Vries was dropped by AlphaTauri, Daniel Ricciardo was handed an F1 return. However, his reappearance has been put on hold after he suffered a metacarpal fracture at the Dutch Grand Prix last month.
In his place arrived Liam Lawson, who is looking to prove his worthiness of a full-time F1 seat for next year.
Tsunoda's extended time with Gasly compared to his other teammates allowed their relationship to blossom more - but that hasn't limited him from enjoying a strong bond with his fellow AlphaTauri drivers.
"I was a rookie and he [Gasly] was an experienced driver," Tsunoda reflected. "I had to learn a lot of things from him.
"There was no pressure, there was some competition between us at the same time, but he's like an older brother, he's a bit older but has had a lot more experience.
"With Nyck we were already friends from past years. We didn't talk, weren't able to be teammates like two years with Pierre. The relationship itself was slightly deeper.
"With Daniel, I have chatted a bit with him the past. But it's not like we were friends.
"He came, we chat a lot more and build more of a relationship. He's also very experienced, so I can learn from him, but he can also learn from me, how I drive the AlphaTauri.
"Liam, we were also friends from past years in the junior categories. We know how we think. We had lots of fun times with each other. So it's good."