AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost has given his assessment of Yuki Tsunoda's second F1 season so far, saying he has seen solid progress from the Japanese racer.
After a mixed rookie campaign in 2021, Tsunoda started his sophomore campaign well by claiming points finishes in three of the first six Grands Prix (having failed to start in Saudi Arabia amid technical trouble).
And while AlphaTauri's form has generally been disappointing under the sport's new technical regulations (leaving them eighth in the Constructors' standings), Tsunoda appears to be getting on terms with teammate Pierre Gasly in qualifying and race trim.
As things stand, the experienced Gasly leads the qualifying head-to-heads by eight sessions to five, and holds 16 points to Tsunoda's 11.
Tost sees gains from Tsunoda in second F1 season
Reviewing Tsunoda's season so far, Tost told RacingNews365.com: "Yuki is improving. I must say his learning gradient is going up.
"He made a fantastic qualifying at Paul Ricard, when he finished eighth. Unfortunately, in the race, [Esteban] Ocon crashed into him in the first lap. Therefore we had to call him in [to the pits], because the floor was damaged heavily, also the sidepod.
"This was a shame because I'm sure he would have finished good in the points, in seventh or eighth place.
"But anyway, this is racing, and we will see now what's going on in the second half of the season."
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Tost: Three years needed to properly judge Tsunoda
Tost added that given the demands of modern-day F1, drivers need to be given time to build up their experience and show their full potential.
"I'm talking about three years, because the first season for such a young driver is just flying away," he said.
"There are so many new things coming to him. Many race tracks he doesn't know. Then qualifying is always new for him, because although he knows the track, this is not the question.
"The question is, how is the sun shining? How much is the temperature changing? What's the wind doing? All this kind of stuff. You need experience.
"In the second year, he learns all these things a little bit. But to get really deep into the details, he needs a third year, and after three years you have a clear picture of whether a driver can do it or not."
Could Red Bull turn to anybody else?
As for the final call on whether Tsunoda will stay for a third season, Tost knows it is up to Red Bull and team advisor Helmut Marko.
"This is a decision from Red Bull at the end. Of course, [Tsunoda] has to deliver," stated Tost.
"We also had drivers who didn't come up with the performance after one or two years and they were then dismissed from Red Bull."
Red Bull's junior pool includes several F2 drivers, although Jehan Daruvala is the best-placed of the group in a distant fifth position.
Asked if there are any realistic options beyond Tsunoda at this stage, Tost commented: "Currently, it's difficult to say. There are some drivers in Formula 2. But do they have the experience and the speed to be next year already in Formula 1?
"It's difficult to say now, because there are still a lot of races to do. We will see."
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