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Tsunoda praised by Red Bull for 2024 performances

After an impressive start to 2024, Yuki Tsunoda has earned the continued praise of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.

Tsunoda has become an unlikely source of continuity for VCARB in recent years. Since joining F1 in 2021, his progression has earned him a relatively secure position within the Faenza-based team. Whilst long-term contracts are a rarity in Red Bull’s second team, Tsunoda has been a highly valuable asset for many years. The question is whether Red Bull considers him a realistic option to partner Verstappen.

There is already extensive evidence outlining the state of play on this topic. Broadly, the 23-year-old’s position at VCARB is comparable to that of his former teammate, Pierre Gasly.

He is seen as a good reference and persistently exceeds expectations. Just last season, he faced three teammates and – to varying degrees – outperformed all of them. Whilst Tsunoda obviously enjoyed an advantage over Ricciardo and De Vries (owing to his continuity), he still delivered strong results.

Moreover, there is no asterixis against his efforts in 2024. His results and overall performance have earned him plenty of praise from Red Bull’s Helmut Marko:

“If Yuki continues to drive like he did in the rest of the races, then it will certainly be a good letter of recommendation that he is giving,” Helmut Marko wrote on SPEEDWEEK after the Miami GP.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – APRIL 07: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202404070220 // Usage for editorial use only //

Promotion still unlikely

Of course, words are one thing – actions are quite another. Red Bull is perhaps the best example of a team capable of making knee-jerk or otherwise unexpected driver changes.

Moreover, there are few indications – if any – that Tsunoda is being seriously considered to join the reigning Champions.

At this stage, the following question must be posed: ‘What else can Tsunoda do?’

He is consistently maximising the VCARB 01, both in absolute terms and relative to his teammate. Unfortunately for the Japanese driver, even very strong finishes seem irrelevant in Red Bull’s overall perception of him.

For whatever reason, Christian Horner and (to a lesser extent) Helmut Marko are unconvinced that Tsunoda deserves a seat in the first team. Considering the tools at his disposal, it is difficult to imagine he can do much more to change this viewpoint.

Having comprehensively outperformed De Vries last year, Tsunoda defied expectations – both within and beyond the Red Bull camp. The same can be said of his performances relative to Ricciardo this year.

Because of this, praise towards the 23-year-old must be taken in a wider context.

For all his efforts, the path to a seat in the main team seems very difficult. Moving forward, it will be intriguing to observe how long Red Bull can continue praising the youngster without offering him a contract with the Milton Keynes squad.

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