For the first 10 rounds of the season, attention at AlphaTauri was biased towards full-time rookie Nyck de Vries and his struggles to step up to F1 as he drew criticism from Red Bull bosses Christian Horner and Helmut Marko.
The FIA Formula 2 and Formula E champion was sacked after Silverstone to be replaced by eight-time grand prix winner Ricciardo. The Australian generated such media interest upon his Hungary return that he reckoned it felt like “I had just won a world championship”.
Tsunoda said it was therefore “challenging” when asked by Motorsport.com if he felt as though he had flown under the radar.
However, he added that the experience of battling with Ricciardo meant he was learning a lot – even if the ex-McLaren, Renault and Red Bull driver’s return had heightened the pressure to lead to a couple of mistakes.
He said: “It’s challenging. But at the same time, I know that this current situation is completely new for me.
“I’m learning a lot, especially getting challenged by an experienced driver. And not only is he an experienced driver, he’s a top driver and we know that he’s fast.”
Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia AlphaTauri, with Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia AlphaTauri
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Tsunoda reckoned Ricciardo’s behaviour in the team was almost “the opposite as me” but he was ready to square up to him in the second half of the campaign.
“I already know he is fast but also how he’s behaving in the team is like probably the opposite as me,” said Tsunoda. “So, lots of things to learn, a lot from him.
“It’s also a bit of pressure for myself and probably that made me rush and a couple of mistakes in the last couple of races.
“But I was able to put it all together in the last race [Spa, 10th place]. It was not easy. But just happy and feeling ready for a fight with him in the second half of the season.”
Evaluating his start of the campaign, Tsunoda reckoned he had taken a step forward with consistency as he classified 10th or 11th in each of the first five rounds.
But losing points in the Spanish GP, with ninth place denied courtesy of a penalty for forcing Zhou Guanyu off-track, disrupted his “rhythm”.
The Japanese explained: “Consistency was key, and especially last year, so I was able to improve. In the first races, I was happy; I knew why.
“I was slightly [in] a bit of comfort zone, and I had kind of rhythm. After Barcelona, there was two races that I lost the points in an unfortunate way.
“Since then, I started to lose the rhythm. I recognise the amount I have to improve still.
“[Spa was] back to the same shape, or similar shape, I had in the beginning of season. So really happy and just keep improving.”