Following the withdrawal of Super Aguri from the Formula One championship, two drivers are now faced with unemployment; Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson. The British half of the folded team has been a long-time tester for Honda and his reward for his efforts were a full-time drive for Aguri in 2006 and 2007. Takuma Sato also had strong links with the Japanese car manufacturer, the team essentially being built to extend his career. But has Sato done enough to get a drive elsewhere?
Sato had entered Formula One with lots of promise, initially getting a drive with the now rebranded Jordan outfit back in 2002. Takuma quickly developed a reputation for throwing the car off the road, but a second chance with BAR Honda in 2004 emphasised the team’s faith in him. That and the marketing dream of running a Japanese driver in a predominantly Japanese team.
When Honda decided to sign experienced driver Rubens Barrichello for 2006 though, the fans were quick to criticise Honda and thus the B-Team was founded by popular ex-Formula One pilot Aguri Suzuki. In essence, the team came to being in order to help Sato and keep the peace with the passionate Asian fans.
In his time at Super Aguri, Sato did quite well with the under-performing car, 2007 being the team’s most competitive season in their short history. Takuma Sato scored all the team’s points that year, claiming one in Spain and three in Canada. The Tokyo-born driver has also enjoyed relative success with the much better funded BAR Honda team, earning 34 points in 2004. However, in comparison to his team mate that year, the points he accrued pale somewhat. Jenson Button scored 85 during the ’04 campaign, including 10 visits to podium, 9 more than Sato.
On a good day, Sato can be a quick, competitive and tenacious racer. His move on then-reigning champion Fernando Alonso in Canada last year was not a stand-out pass, but in the circumstances it was bold and poignant. However, on other days Sato can be ragged, unpolished and look like a rookie. There have been unfounded suggestions that Sato’s driving style led to a lot of engine failures while he was at Honda and many people have questioned his ability over the years.
There have been rumours circulating around the paddocks at recent races that Sato maybe lining himself up to replace Nelson Piquet Jr. at Renault. The Brazilian rookie has endured a disastrous start to his career with the Enstone-based team, and Renault chiefs have been openly critical, although also supportive of their driver’s efforts. To be honest I feel there is little chance of Takuma getting a race seat this year; Renault aside the teams look fairly stable on the driver front.
However, Sato was in Monaco last weekend to let people know that he wasn’t ready to retire and has been trying to get his foot in some team doors. Stating that he doesn’t want to retire and that he’s received offers from outside of Formula One, Sato also admitted that he’s had no firm proposals from the current grid of squads.
I do not want to retire but at the moment I do not know in what way I will be coming back. Takuma Sato.
So, what do we think of Takuma Sato? Has he become Formula One’s latest reject, or can he bounce back from the sidelines?
Image © HondaF1.