Yuki Tsunoda will join AlphaTauri team to replace Daniil Kvyat in Formula One

Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Kvyat
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FAENZA, Italy — Japan will have a driver in Formula One for the first time in seven years after AlphaTauri confirmed Wednesday that Yuki Tsunoda will replace Daniil Kvyat at the team in 2021.

Tsunoda will move into Formula One after placing third in Formula Two last season with three victories. He won the F2 rookie of the year award as the highest-scoring driver in his first season. Tsunoda, 20, will be the first F1 driver to be born in the 21st century.

He will partner Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri, which is Red Bull’s second team with a focus on developing talented drivers who can represent the main team.

“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,” AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost said. “Watching him in Formula 2 this year, he has demonstrated the right mix of racing aggression and good technical understanding.”

Tsunoda drove this year’s AlphaTauri car during testing Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, placing fifth-fastest of 15 runners.

The last Japanese driver in F1 was Kamui Kobayashi, who raced for Toyota, Sauber and Caterham before leaving at the end of the 2014 season.

Kvyat is without an F1 drive for 2021. The Russian has spent six seasons in F1 with AlphaTauri and Red Bull.

In 110 starts from 2014-20, he became his country’s most successful driver with three podiums and a best finish of second place at the Hungaroring in 2015, his lone full season with Red Bull. Kvyat was demoted after four races in 2016 to Scuderia Toro Rosso, which was rebranded as AlphaTauri last season.

Kvyat spent the 2018 season out of Formula One (and working as a development driver for Ferrari) after being dropped from the Red Bull program, but he returned with its developmental team last year.

The announcement of Tsunoda means that 18 of the 20 spots have been filled on the grid for the 2021 Formula One season. Mercedes (which is expected to re-sign Lewis Hamilton this month) and Red Bull (reportedly deciding between keeping Alex Albon or adding Sergio Perez) have the remaining openings.