SINGAPORE: Yuki Tsunoda, the standout performer of AlphaTauri’s 2023 season, may find himself in the role of Red Bull’s reserve driver for the upcoming 2024 season. This potential shift comes as a result of a complex driver dilemma facing both Red Bull and AlphaTauri.
Tsunoda’s stellar performance this year, securing all three of AlphaTauri’s points finishes in Australia, Azerbaijan, and Belgium, initially pointed to a continuation of his partnership with Daniel Ricciardo for the next season.
However, Ricciardo’s recent hand injury during a practice crash at the Dutch Grand Prix led to the emergence of Liam Lawson, a promising talent from Red Bull’s esteemed driver academy.
Lawson’s impressive showings at Zandvoort and Monza have thrown a curveball into the driver lineup decision. Speculation is rife that AlphaTauri might opt to retain the New Zealander alongside Ricciardo, leaving Tsunoda without a race seat.
According to reports, Tsunoda could transition into the reserve role previously held by Alex Albon. While there are no concrete indications of Tsunoda being considered for a promotion to the main team in the future, he could serve as an “appeasing choice” for Red Bull’s longstanding engine partner, Honda.
With Honda’s announcement of an engine partnership with Aston Martin slated for the 2026 season, Tsunoda’s future could potentially be with the Silverstone-based team.
Signs of Tsunoda’s potential redirection were apparent ahead of the 2023 season when Nyck de Vries was the sole AlphaTauri driver to undergo a seat fitting for Red Bull, hinting at his candidacy to step in if Verstappen or Perez were unable to race.
In a separate report, Ricciardo remains “confident” of securing a full-time drive with AlphaTauri for the next season and aspires to potentially replace Perez at Red Bull by the end of 2024.
Encouraged by AlphaTauri’s plans for closer ties with Red Bull, Ricciardo, though recovering from his injury, is hopeful for a successful comeback.
As Ricciardo is scheduled to return no earlier than the Qatar Grand Prix next month, Lawson is set to have two more races in Singapore and Japan to solidify his case.
Before his AlphaTauri stint, Lawson had been competing in the Japanese-based Super Formula category in 2023, and he remains in contention for the title with one round left, culminating at Suzuka on October 29, coinciding with F1’s Mexico City Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.