Red Bull and Honda protege Yuki Tsunoda will race in Formula 1 for AlphaTauri next season after his impressive run to third in Formula 2 in 2020.
The 20-year-old replaces Daniil Kvyat at AlphaTauri, driving alongside Pierre Gasly. He is F1’s first Japanese driver since Kamui Kobayashi last competed at the end of 2014, and is set to be the first driver born this millennium to race in F1.
Tsunoda has made a rapid rise since winning the Japanese Formula 4 title in 2018 following two full seasons in the category with Honda support.
Brought to Europe as a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, he competed in both the FIA Formula 3 Championship and Euroformula Open in 2019 and was a race-winner in both categories. He finished ninth in FIA F3, driving for Jenzer Motorsport, and fourth in Euroformula with Motopark despite missing two rounds.
This season he stepped up to F2 with Carlin, and claimed the first of four pole positions in round two at the Red Bull Ring. He went on to win races at Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and in the final round in Bahrain.
He finished third in the final standings as the top rookie, just a point behind runner-up Callum Ilott and 15 behind champion Mick Schumacher.
“Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in Formula 1, so I am very happy with this news,” he said.
“I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr. [Helmut] Marko for giving me this opportunity, and of course everyone from Honda, for all their support so far in my career, giving me great opportunities to race in Europe.
“I must also thank the teams that I have raced with to get to this point, particularly Carlin, with whom I have learned so much this year. I realise that I will be carrying the hopes of a lot of Japanese F1 fans next year and I will be doing my best for them too.”
Tsunoda completed his first laps in an F1 car in a test at Imola in November before taking part in the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost added: “Red Bull has been following Yuki’s career for a while now and I am sure he will be a great asset to our team. Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding.
“During the test in Imola in November when he drove our 2018 car, his lap times were very consistent over a race simulation, he progressed throughout the day and gave our engineers useful feedback.
“In addition, his integration with the Honda engineers has been seamless, which certainly helps. At the test in Abu Dhabi this week, he proved to be a fast learner and that he is ready to make the step to Formula 1.”