Honda-backed Formula 2 race-winner Yuki Tsunoda will race for AlphaTauri in Formula 1 next season, replacing Daniil Kvyat at the Red Bull-owned squad.
The 20-year-old Japanese claimed three victories on his way to third in this year’s F2 title race, behind Mick Schumacher – who will race for Haas F1 in 2021 – and newly confirmed Ferrari test driver Callum Ilott.
Tsunoda, who will be the first Japanese racer on the F1 grid since 2014, had long been expected to race for the Honda-powered team next year, due to his strong links with the manufacturer. He won the Japanese F4 title in 2018 before switching to European F3 last season.
Tsunoda has already tested a 2018 F1 car at Imola and recently took part in the end-of-season Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi for AlphaTauri. He will join Pierre Gasly, who took a shock victory in this year’s Italian Grand Prix, at AlphaTauri.
Team boss Franz Tost said: “In Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding. At the test in Abu Dhabi, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to F1.”
Tsunoda’s graduation means that three race-winners from this year’s F2 championship will be on the F1 grid next year, with Haas running Schumacher and Russian Nikita Mazepin.
It also largely completes the 2021 grid, with the only real question mark whether Alex Albon will retain his seat at Red Bull Racing.
While Tsunoda is part of both Honda and Red Bull’s young driver squads, his links with the Japanese car giant were likely key to him gaining the driver. Honda has long been keen to have a Japanese racer drive for it, although it will quit F1 at the end of next season.
Kvyat has now lost his drive at AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso) for a second time. He entered F1 with the outfit in 2014 and earned a promotion to Red Bull the following year. But he was dropped back down to Toro Rosso in 2016 to make way for Max Verstappen and was dropped entirely after the 2017 season, before being given a second chance in 2019.
Ilott: Ferrari test role "a great opportunity"
British racer Ilott believes that his new test driver role with Ferrari is a “great opportunity” and “an exciting new challenge”.
The 22-year-old has been part of the Ferrari Driver Academy for the past three years and finished runner-up to Schumacher in this year’s F2 championship. He also drove for the Ferrari-backed Alfa Romeo F1 team in the recent Young Driver Test.
Ilott will take conduct on-track and simulator testing for Ferrari next year and will attend races as part of his role.