Yuki Tsunoda says he feels much more prepared for his second season in Formula 1, as the AlphaTauri driver has admitted he struggled with his physical fitness throughout 2021.
Tsunoda had a troubled first season in the sport, having stepped up from Formula 2, with a year littered with constant errors and crashes. Worse, Tsunoda struggled to contain his temper over team radio – resulting in some stern words from team bosses at AlphaTauri and Red Bull as they pondered his future.
Tsunoda was granted a second year with AlphaTauri, after steps were taken by Red Bull to help him find his feet. Moving to Italy to be under close observation by team boss Franz Tost, Tsunoda was also taken under the wing of the mature Alex Albon to act in a mentorship role.
With these steps, Tsunoda ended the year strongly, finishing with a fourth place in Abu Dhabi.
Reflecting on his maiden season, a refreshingly honest Tsunoda believes he simply lacked the physical fitness required for a Formula 1 car after underestimating the challenge.
"The training I was doing, before the season started, I think was mostly right," Tsunoda told The Race.
"Of course, in Formula 3 and Formula 2, I kind of felt it a little bit, but always from the middle of the season I'd start to get used to it and the body adapted to those conditions – especially the neck, I never had a neck issue.
"But something [different] happened last year. Maybe those other years physically I was naturally strong [enough]. That's one of the reasons I was not training enough last year, and I realised too late.
"When I was racing Formula 2, those cars didn't have power steering, so my steering weight was much heavier in Formula 1. I was thinking Formula 1 would be easier because there's power steering! And maybe there's the neck issue, but not as much as I was thinking.
"I thought Formula 1 would be kind of similar to Formula 2, maybe a bit harder. But yeah, I'd much rather be in a Formula 2 [physically]!"
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Tsunoda on how he "hates" the gym
But, despite realising his physical shortcomings and taking the necessary steps to alleviate them over the winter break, Tsunoda said there's still nothing more he hates than getting up and going for a training session.
"The day I have a gym session, when I wake up it feels like I'm just having a bad day," he said.
"I still don't like gym sessions. I don't like the smell of the gym, I don't like everything. I don't like the equipment, just everything. At the same time, I know the gym helps a lot to increase my performance.
"Of course, I really don't like it. But what I felt last year and experienced last year motivates me at least a little bit to train."
Tsunoda went on to reveal that the extent of his issues in 2021 were disguised early on, due to having a cooler night race in Bahrain and a wet and slow race at Imola to kick off the season. But, once the intensity of the season ramped up and F1 visited hotter climes, he began to find the going very tough.
"As soon as I went into more physically demanding tracks and also hotter track conditions, I felt like I'm not [fit] enough," he explained.
"I needed to work harder, especially compared with my team-mate [Pierre Gasly], who was training really hard, and I know how strong he is and how his physical performance affected the driving as well.
"I realised quite late that I have to increase. I thought at certain points before the season started that it was enough."
Worse, the realisation of the problem wasn't enough – Tsunoda needed more training, and he simply didn't have the time required to do it.
"As soon as the season starts, I couldn't train much more, I couldn't gain the physical performance because we are so time-limited and as soon as one race finishes, the next race is going to start," he added.
"That's why I've been preparing a lot compared to last year to avoid that situation. And also to prepare for the new cars and where I'm going to feel tired may be different compared to last year."
Video: AlphaTauri present their new F1 car!
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