'More relaxed' Tsunoda relishing leading role in new F1 campaign

Yuki Tsunoda is looking forward to proving he has taken a step forward this year when he takes on the team leader's role for AlphaTauri at this weekend's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 22-year-old Japanese driver, entering his third season in Formula One under pressure to step up following the departure of Pierre Gasly to Alpine, said on Thursday that he felt more relaxed and ready for the task ahead.

Speaking to reporters at the Bahrain International Circuit, Tsunoda said he felt he had been improving in every race in the second half of 2022 and wanted to carry that momentum with him into this year.

"I started to feel like improvements at every race," he explained.

"Last year, literally, at every race I was able to improve my driving little by little. Now I want to carry that forward again.

"We had a good three days at the test and it was very productive. It is nice for me to be team-mate with Nyck de Vries and I think we can make a lot of effort together and make good steps this year.

"We must work closely and I am sure we will. Nyck is a good guy and I think we already have a good relationship from a couple of years ago too.

"He is experienced. He can help me and the team and I am already learning from him. It is important for me to work on the quality of my driving and the feedback for the team. I know that."

After two seasons as second driver behind Gasly, Tsunoda now has the lead role and faces a new pressure to prove his great potential and measure up to high expectations.

As part of his revamped approach for 2023, he has taken on a new fitness trainer – reported to be Daniel Ricciardo's former trainer Michael Italiano, an Australian from Perth – in a bid to step up his all round performances.

"I think already it's a step better, a step more relaxed more than in first half of my first year compared to the second year," he added.

"Yes, I am more relaxed and I feel I am more responsible. I know I have to deliver the results and I am feeling quite relaxed about this."

He added that his performances in 2022 were affected by a defective chassis in the first part of the year. Only after he switched to a new chassis did he feel comfortable and ready to perform to his limits.

"I think we can I hope achieve good results for the coming races, but as always, it's a tight midfield and it's difficult to compare ourselves to the other teams. Now we will see where we are."