Tsunoda set to become seventeenth TRS graduate to drive F1
The news last week that Yuki Tsunoda will test for AlphaTauri later this year will see the up and coming Japanese racer become the 17th graduate of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series to drive an F1 car as part of a Grand Prix weekend or official F1 test.
Tsunoda stepped up to Formula 2 this season after a tough campaign in the Castrol TRS at the beginning of the year. He won one race at Highlands Motorsport Park and showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately finished fourth in the highly competitive championship behind Igor Fraga, Liam Lawson and Franco Colapinto. Red Bull Junior Tsunoda, however, has done more than enough to warrant an F1 test and will drive the AlphaTauri AT01 during the post-season Abu Dhabi test, his first F1 outing.
Although his F2 campaign is gathering real momentum now, if Tsunoda doesn’t finish in the top three in Formula 2 this year, the Super Licence points collected in TRS in 2020 will be crucial to gather the 40 required to drive an F1 car in 2021. If he does make it onto the grid next year, he'll join fellow TRS graduates Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyatt and Nicolas Latifi.
He's not the only graduate of the 2020 series enjoying success in this strange year for global motorsport either. Eight of the 20 runners from the five round championship back in January and February have won on the international stage so far this year - Tsunoda (F2), Lawson (F3), Colapinto (Eurocup), Caio Collet (Eurocup), Lirim Zendeli (F3), Oliver Rasmussen (F3 Regional), Spike Kohlbecker (F4) and Jose Blanco (F4).
The TRS championship offers 3,000km of testing and racing in a compact five round championship that takes place during five weeks of the New Zealand summer. That, combined with the growing lists of successful graduates, presents a strong argument that it is one of the must-do series for young single seater racers. The low cost per kilometre plus the ability to earn Super Licence points is an added bonus that makes the series even more attractive to local and international drivers.
"The track record speaks for itself really," explained category manager Nico Caillol. "Every year we see an exceptional group of young drivers take to the Kiwi tracks and every year many of them go on to demonstrate their potential in New Zealand and in other series. An increasing number are on the F1 radar and there is a definite view that you have to be at a very high level to win in TRS. The very best of tomorrow's racing talent race in TRS at some stage early in their careers. It's a genuine benchmark of global talent."
Despite the on-going challenges of the global Covid 19 pandemic, the championship organisers - TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand - have been working hard on the 2021 championship and how that might look and indeed how it might be improved from this year's championship. That was the first for the new state-of-the-art FT60 chassis and TGRNZ have plans to enhance the TRS package even further in time for 2021.
"We're here to stay, we will be racing in 2021 and we'll be releasing full details of the programme and the budget to prospective competitors soon. There's been a lot of interest from drivers wanting to come down and race in New Zealand, from young Kiwi drivers and a few very interesting enquiries from more established drivers. We'll be watching how Yuki goes in Abu Dhabi with real interest and looking forward to the 18th graduate of the series to drive an F1 car. Who knows who that might be?"