You Spin My Car Right Round
It was a sad day in Formula 1 when Super Aguri were turned away from the gates of Istanbul and became bankrupt a few days later. The team were loved with the underdog status they had gained, most notably with the heroic Canadian Grand Prix in 2007 (pictured) with possibly one of the most famous overtakes in this decade of Formula 1, with Takuma Sato using the slipstream perfectly to pass the then current world champion, Fernando Alonso.
But Takuma Sato had more of a reputation of crashing into things, be it the wall or other cars. That reputation has possibly cost him expanding his career further than the Honda spectrum, considering the fact that he was within the same setup, British American Racing (BAR), Honda and the team Honda created for him, Super Aguri.
But the fact was, despite the occasional lapse in concentration (with the inclusion of two disqualifications for an avoidable crash with Jarno Trulli and disobeying blue flags), he was a solid and quick driver. He became Japan’s first podium scorer for fourteen years in the USA GP of 2004 (since his then future team boss, Aguri Suzuki, scored a podium in Japan, 1990). With a strong car under his belt in that year of 2004, he finished half of the races in the points, including that podium. He only crashed out once, with a first lap collision involving three other drivers, the other four reasons for retirement that year was engine failure.
In fact, out of the twenty seven races he has retired, only nine have them been involving crashes, not all of him his own fault. These include the horrific crash in Austria, 2002, involving himself and Nick Heidfeld, where the German lost control of his car and slammed into the side of him, he required medical help after suffering minor concussion.
Now lets swipe the card clean here, this is where I admit, the current Takuma Sato love in will inevitably end. Lets start with some of the crashes then. He does have a bigger crash to retirement ratio compared to other drivers. He does tend to spin off a lot, of course the last time he did so was the USA Grand Prix of 2007, where could have again surprised the odds by ending up in the points for the second race in the row. Albeit early on in the race. He also caused the crash between himself and Michael Schumacher in Belgium 2005. Which may cause him to be a hero to all Schumacher haters, however he is still at fault, which his aggression and often simple minded approach to some overtakes cost him.
He was also comprehensively thrashed by his team mate at BAR, Jenson Button. The records stand up for themselves:
- 2004: Button – 3rd, 85 points. Sato – 8th, 34 points
- 2005: Button – 9th, 37 points. Sato – 23rd, 1 point
To only score one point when your team mate scored thirty six more is clearly unacceptable, hence why Honda got rid of him. But the only reason he stayed in Formula 1 for the next two and a bit years was because of Super Aguri. There, he scored all of Super Aguri’s points in the career of the team, a grand total of four, scored in Spain and Canada of 2007. Anthony Davidson was of no match for him in the twenty one races the two competed against, Sato performed amazingly well in what was a poor car at times.
He lasted the rest of the 2008 season without a drive, probably cursing the fact that there were no mid-season changes. But he had the opportunity to get the Toro Rosso drive after Sebastian Vettel moved to its big brother Red Bull. Sadly for Sato, it occurred at the same time as a certain credit crunch. His personal sponsors lost the money, Toro Rosso said hello to Buemi with his better sponsor opportunities.
What now for the sun of Japan? The best opportunity now is to wait for a mid season drive. There is more than likely to be an available space opening up when an underperforming driver, such as Piquet or possibly Bourdais. But there is a chance he won’t get this seat. Renault are most likely to go with Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso go for one of the debutant Red Bull Development Project. He can wait until 2010, but by then he would have spent almost two years without a drive, rusty around the edges. He could go for A1GP, but the fact there is no Team Japan is a hindrance, GP2 is a massive step down as is any feeder series. The only option to keep at a high standard is endurance racing, but that is all booked up for the year.
I loved watching Takuma Sato drive in Formula 1, he is such an exciting and unpredictable driver. Unpredictable doesn’t specify how, he could have a heroic race in a Super Aguri, or an awful one in a BAR. I hope he gets back into Formula 1 very soon, Kazuki Nakajima needs help flying that Japanese flag.