AlphaTauri's Gasly ready to be a leader for team and Tsunoda

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Italian Grand Prix - Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy - September 6, 2020 AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly celebrates winning the Italian Grand Prix on the podium Pool via REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

(Reuters) - Pierre Gasly said on Friday he was ready to be AlphaTauri's leader on the track this season and help Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda make a quick start to his Formula One career with the Red Bull-owned team.

Honda protege Tsunoda has graduated from Formula Two to the Italy-based team and, at 20, will be the youngest driver on the starting grid and the first born in 2000.

Frenchman Gasly, 25, took an emotional win at Monza last season -- the first of his career -- in a year without a single Ferrari victory.

"Of course, Yuki’s arrival means I will have more responsibility within the team and I’m ready to take on the role of team leader," he said in a Q&A at the online launch of the new AT02 car.

"He lacks experience, so it won’t always be easy for him, but I think he is talented and it will also be up to me and the team to lead the way."

Team boss Franz Tost said the 2021 target was to become midfield leaders after dropping from sixth to seventh overall last year.

Honda-powered AlphaTauri, the former Toro Rosso team, still scored more points (107) than ever before and racked up 10 races in a row in the points for the first time.

They scored with at least one car in 15 of the 17 rounds of a COVID-19 disrupted campaign.

"With Pierre on Yuki’s side we have an experienced driver, who can help our Japanese rookie to develop faster, but at the same time we can aim for good results," said Tost.

He said Tsunoda, third in F2 last year, was sure to have some crashes but that was part of the learning curve.

The Japanese will race with the number 22 -- as used by Britain's now-retired 2009 world champion Jenson Button and also twice Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.

"My number when I was racing in karting was 11, but in F1 that’s already taken by Sergio Perez," said Tsunoda. "So I doubled it to become 22."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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