Yuki Tsunoda is conducting a test with the AlphaTauri team today at Imola as he prepares for a possible Formula 1 graduation next year.

The Japanese Formula 2 racer will get behind the wheel of a 2018-specification Toro Rosso STR13 to complete 300km of running in order to qualify for a free practice superlicence which would enable him to contest an FP1 outing before the end of the season, something AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost has hinted at.

Tsunoda has enjoyed a strong rookie campaign and has impressed Red Bull by winning two races. The 20-year-old currently lies third in the championship standings heading into the F2 finale in Bahrain at the end of the month.

In order to qualify for an F1 superlicence, Tsunoda must finish inside the top four in the F2 championship. However, Christian Lundgaard, Robert Shwartzman and Nikita Mazepin all sit within seven points of him with four races still to run.

AlphaTauri has already confirmed that Tsunoda will run for the team in the Abu Dhabi rookie test that follows the final F1 race of 2020.

“It’s his first outing in a Formula 1 car,” said Tost, “It’s in Imola, it’s not an easy track and I will instruct him on the best possible way to do [it].

“We want to do a 300 kilometre run with him, just to get the permission from the FIA to do, eventually, first practice in Bahrain or Abu Dhabi.

"We will see if it's necessary. It depends where he ends up in the F2 drivers' championship. If he is in the first four, he gets a superlicence, if he is fifth and maybe he needs two FP1s, because they will be a point as well.”

Providing Tsunoda secures a top-four finish in F2, he is likely to graduate to AlphaTauri alongside Pierre Gasly, which would result in Daniil Kvyat losing his drive despite an impressive fourth-place finish at Imola.

Should Red Bull decide to demote Alex Albon, then it may wish to reinstall the Thai racer back into AlphaTauri’s line-up for 2021.

"It's better to have a queue instead of having nothing," added Tost of Red Bull’s driver options. "I think the decision will be made soon, a decision from Red Bull, and then we will see.

"We are not in a hurry. If it's before the end of the season, it's fine. It depends also I think where Yuki Tsunoda ends in the championship, because it is a very important factor.”

Tost said that Honda will not have an influence over Tsunoda’s future, insisting that a final call will be based on “just his performance.”

“It has nothing to do with any sponsors or anything like this,” Tost explained. “This was never the case at either Toro Rosso or Scuderia AlphaTauri.

“We must be convinced that the driver has the necessary ability and skills to drive successfully as a Formula 1 driver, because although we are the so-called sister team, our pride expects good drivers.”

 

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