Cover Image for Former F1 driver spotted Yuki Tsunoda at the final trials of Honda Development program as he failed

Former F1 driver spotted Yuki Tsunoda at the final trials of Honda Development program as he failed

Samriddhi Jaiswal
|Thu Sep 22 2022

Yuki Tsunoda was so disappointed in himself that he cried after losing out at the final trials of the Honda Development Program.

Yuki Tsunoda is in the second year of his F1 career with the AlphaTauri team and has scored 43 career points in the pinnacle of motorsport. The Red Bull junior team has announced that the young Japanese driver will stay with the team for the 2023 season.

But like many other drivers, Tsunoda has also gone through some tough years in his career. He even had been at a point in his life where he almost quit the sport.

It was back in 2016 when he appeared in the final trials of the Honda Development Program in Japan. If he had passed the final trials, he’d be eligible to compete in the domestic F4 championship.

Tsunoda said that the final trial was the turning point of his career. Up until then, the young Japanese had nothing but wins up his sleeve, having become the youngest ever to have a podium finish in a Formula debut race.

He even got his maiden win at the Super FJ Japan Challenge. But going into the final trials, he was so nervous that Tsunoda told himself that he’d quit racing if he couldn’t make an impression on the judges.

All of this stemmed from him being uninterested in participating in any other form of racing, if not F1. He finished third after making a false start and serving a penalty. “I failed,” he recalled feeling embarrassed and ashamed of his result.

The 16-year-old Tsunoda was so embarrassed that he cried on the train ride home.

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Satoru Nakajima spotted Yuki Tsunoda in his failure

After being left in endless disbelief, he was presented with one small hope from the director of the Honda F4.

Tsunoda recalled being told that he won’t be able to race as part of Honda’s development program. But four Honda spots are available in F4, two of which are available in the Suzuka Racing School.

This opportunity came to Tsunoda because of the former F1 driver Satoru Nakajima. He was the head of the school and had spotted the 16-year-old as he failed in the final trials. Nakajima recommended Tsunoda to the judges.

Tsunoda recalled, “At the last corner, I saw Satoru Nakajima standing behind the chicane through the visor. I didn’t want Nakajima-san to see me as a quitter.”

“Even though I had no chance to win, I gave it my best shot to hang on to the front group. Nakajima-san took this in.”

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