Yuki Tsunoda is confident that the newly rebranded RB F1 team will benefit in a major way from a closer collaboration with Red Bull Racing starting from the 2024 season, which could bring an “extra couple of tenths” of pace to the VCARB-01. He’s also confident that the influx of personnel coming with successful F1 backgrounds will benefit the squad long-term.
The team formerly known as AlphaTauri endured a mostly disappointing 2023 season, in which the car failed to deliver any sort of real performance gains at the start of the season, but was vastly improved throughout the year with several upgrade packages bringing the AT04 towards points contention, but ultimately it could only finish in eighth place in the constructors’ championship, with 25 points.
For 2024, the team has been through a massive revitalization process, with changes pretty much across all aspects of the team except the driver pairing. Long-serving team principal Franz Tost has stepped down from his role, with former Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies taking over. Over on the technical side, the team has signed several key staff from rival teams, including Alan Permane and Tim Goss. And most noticeably, the team has a change of brand identity going into this season. AlphaTauri is no more, with the new name being the (mouthful) Visa Cash RB F1 Team.
More importantly even, the team will take full advantage of the listed parts it can buy from another team, and will be utilizing all of the allowed components from the year old RB19 – and along with that will come a closer collaboration as well, with part of the team moving towards a new site in Milton Keynes together with Red Bull.
Speaking in an interview with F1’s official website ahead of the new season, Yuki Tsunoda explained how the closer ties with Red Bull’s main team is a “positive sign” for the squad, despite there being limitations in place as to how much information the two teams can share between them. He also hinted at the possibility of it translating to on-track performance in the form of an “extra couple of tenths” in pace:
“I think it’ll be nice that it’ll be able to work slightly more together, closer to Red Bull Racing, which they achieved a lot of things in the past, and you know, the recent years, they’re just dominating the fields as well.
“But obviously there’s the, you know, there are regulations on how much we can work together, and obviously it’s the same as others, I guess, so see how much we can work closer,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s definitely a positive sign that we’re able to have a bit of knowledge from that thing, the winning car as well.
“So hopefully that experience, that kind of knowledge will give us extra tenths [of a second], so an extra couple of tenths to be able to fight against [the] top eight cars.”
The Japanese driver was adamant that the team isn’t satisfied with what it achieved since the start of the new rules cycle in 2022, and is hoping the massive changes taking place all across the team will help steer it towards its goal of fighting more regularly for the first four rows of the grid on merit:
“Definitely, we are not fully happy with what we achieved [in the] last two years. Obviously, last year we were able to fight stronger against others from the second half [of the season] onwards, but [in the] first half we struggled a lot, and we were expecting, you know, at least we’re going to have better performance compared to first year [of new regulations], because first year was like also wasn’t there [in terms of performance].
“Already from 2022, we wanted something [bigger], better performance, better results, and you know, we are really hungry as a team as well.
“So I think these moments are definitely positive for the team and things we needed as well, because if we look back [to] 2021, we had a competitive car, and especially Pierre [Gasly], lots of achievements in the race as well. So, you know, we need at least kind of that result, and to get there, I think with this collaboration, it will be positive.”
When asked if the expectations are greater given the scope of the changes taking place, Tsunoda explained how it does bring higher expectations – but those won’t be achieved from the beginning of the season, as there will be an adaptation period for the many new personnel and staff joining, along with getting used to their new facilities.
But he does hope the car can deliver some improved pace since the start of the new season:
“Because we changed a lot of things, and lots of big people, big name, we’ve definitely gave a lot of people higher expectations,” he said. “At the same time, these times are more difficult to adapt, you know, blend all of the people into one piece, because you know, it’s good to have a lot of people into the team, lots of experience, but at the same time, they have to be more comfortable, they have to be comfortable to work properly.
“So, that will take a little bit of time, and I’m not expecting straight away, we’re going to have a great year from the first race. You know, me and Laurent [Mekies] tried to be more realistic, I would say, and the first couple of races, [we’ll be] focused mainly for people to adapt to the team.
“Just for now, focusing to create a base, good strong base for the future, and hopefully the car performance will be good for this race, just for these things, I cannot expect anything.”
On his own personal goals for 2024, the 23-year-old said he expects to maintain his good momentum from 2023 and translate that into more points – and also addressed the need to improve his famously angry radio communications with his engineer:
“It’s not easy targets, but you know, easy things today will be more targets, more points, more points than last year. I want to keep lots of things that I done last year, because I think progress I had from 2022 to 2023 was good. It was a big step, and I think the progress or mindset I had then was really good.
“That’s why I was able to achieve well. So I want to keep lots of things from that. That’s the main target, and probably one of the main targets will be to be calm as possible.
“I think I made a big step also in radio as well, but I think still there’s a bit of improvement [to be had] as well.”