F1 2006 – Super Aguri

F1 2006 – Super Aguri

Takuma Sato Testing - 2006What can I say about Super Aguri?

They were the latest of the late in terms of entry to Formula One, only getting in because the other 10 existing teams allowed it. SAF1 put their entry in on time, but failed to mail the $48m cheque (I suspect the mail-boy got fired!). Thus, their entry was void and ignored by the FIA. However, despite all the problems faced by the former Formula One driver and now team owner, they have made it and should be qualifying on Saturday 11th March.

Super Aguri is the newest Formula One team, and is run by Aguri Suzuki, a former F1 pilot who last raced for Ligier at the Pacific Grand Prix in 1995. Suzuki would have competed in the season finale at Suzuka in Japan, but an accident in a practice session resulted in Aguri sustaining a neck injury which forced him to miss the race. He retired after that season, but continued his involvement in motorsport by running cars in the US series IRL and competing in various other formulae.

Having taken time out from the never-relenting circus of F1, Aguri has decided to have a go at F1 management and has thrown a team together rather hastily in time for the season opener in Bahrain. I say ‘thrown together’ because it would appear that Aguri has done exactly that. With backing from Honda, he has an engine, but with not enough time to design his own chassis, he has bought the old Arrows shells from Paul Stoddart, (former owner of Minardi, now Scuderia Toro Rosso) and intends to tweak them to fit in with the 2006 regulations. Unfortunately for Suzuki, the Arrows chassis dates back to 2002, some four years ago! Tweak them? I think he might as well melt them down and start again! The old Arrows chassis was reasonably competitive, and being guided by Heinz-Harold Frentzen at the time, they did quite well. But I fear a lot has happened in the proceeding years and the chassis has now become totally obsolete – I imagine Aguri’s task of developing them is going to be a nightmare.

The team have suggested that they would be using these cars for the first three ‘fly-away’ events, and then they would launch their own car at Imola at the start of the European leg.

So to recap, in case anyone is getting lost amidst this myriad of car buying, tweaking and designing:

SAF1 will alter some cars that are getting on for a half a decade old, whilst similtaneously designing their own car to be launched 6 weeks or so into the season. Whilst all this is happening, Suzuki needs to fund his team by wooing and cooing sponsors, hire enough staff to run the team at the races and develop two cars, run a company (the team) and find enough time to sleep and eat.

I’ve heard of some crazy things in my time, particularly related to project management. But I have to take my hat off to Aguri Suzuki – his plan is the craziest of them all.

In my humble opinion, I really feel SAF1 should have waited one more year. They should have made their intentions clear at the end of 2005, stating: “SAF1 will be competing in the 2007 championship. SAF1 will be backed by Formula One giant, Honda. We have spent over a year developing our own chassis that is fully compliant to the most recent regulations. F1 had better watch out!”

To me, waiting a year allows the team to sort themselves out and form a proper entry into Formula One. Instead, they are probably going to embarass themselves and Honda at the same time. They have employed a newbie driver who goes by the name of Yuji Ide, who should be an interesting watch. The team is predominately Japanese, with Ide’s team mate being none other than Takuma Sato, so Suzuka should be a sell-out this year. Especially if the main Honda team live up to their testing promises and the engine proves to be reliable.

Super Aguri will probably be running around the back of the field in 2006, and I honestly cannot see them staying in F1 for too long. But I have to take my hat off to Honda: This is – by far – the most a manufacturer has spent on ensuring a driver gets a seat in Formula One. Well done Taku, you really do have them by the short and curlys!

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2 comments

  • I think it’s amazing that Sato, um, how should I put this… didn’t exactly shine last year… and still he gets an entire team built for him. It just proves that it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

  • While Takuma may not shine on the track, he certainly does off it. Seeing Taku in interviews and doing other PR stuff, he has a lot of charisma and a ‘nice young man’ image. Maybe this personailty trait has wooed Honda into allowing him to drive for them.

    I’m sure Honda didn’t build the team just for him (a humorous exageration by myself in the post), but they certainly counted on him driving for them. I guess this is Honda’s way of ensuring Japan remains Civic-driving F1 fanatics!

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