Japanese racer Yuki Tsunoda will make his Formula 1 debut with AlphaTauri in 2021 after Red Bull opted to promote the 20-year-old to replace Daniil Kvyat.
It has long been mooted that the Honda-backed driver would step up to partner Pierre Gasly at Red Bull’s sister team, following an impressive rookie F2 season where he finished third.
He will become the first Japanese driver to race in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi, who last competed in the sport in 2014 with Caterham.
“Like most racing drivers, it has always been my goal to race in Formula 1, so I am very happy with this news,” said Tsunoda, 20, who will be the first driver to race in F1 born in 2000 or later.
“I want to thank Scuderia AlphaTauri, Red Bull and Dr. 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, who only arrived in Europe two years ago after racing exclusively in Japan, has made rapid progress through junior formulae after winning the F4 Japanese Championship in 2018.
He finished ninth in his first F3 campaign the following year, taking one win and two further podiums, before making waves in F2 with seven podiums – including two victories.
“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,” said Franz Tost, AlphaTauri Team Principal.
“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 One.”
Tsunoda has already has taste of F1 completing a test in a 2018-spec Toro Rosso at Imola earlier this year and a day of running in the 2020 car on Tuesday in the end-of-season Abu Dhabi test.
Third place in F2 was more than enough to earn a racing super licence to compete in F1, paving the way for Red Bull to give him a seat at AlphaTauri.
It means Kvyat will leave Formula 1, at least in a racing capacity, having scored two podiums in his 110 starts. And now, with Lewis Hamilton sure to sign for Mercedes, there is only one seat remaining in Formula 1: at Red Bull, alongside Max Verstappen.