Hastily formed in late 2005/early 2006, Super Aguri have gone from strength to strength in their two seasons of racing. With substantial backing from parent company Honda, founder Aguri Suzuki has captured the hearts of Japanese and general Formula One fans alike, proving that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. However, despite scoring four admirable points in 2007, the team have faced difficulties over the winter and their fate, it seems, rests on the accountants laps as they try and work out a feasible way for the squad to continue.
Assuming they overcome their troubles of finance, the team should be on the 2008 grid, but where will they stand in comparison to their rivals, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Force India? Well, it all comes down to the chassis. For 2007, the team used a modified version of Honda’s 2006 car, the RA106. In direct comparison to the Honda RA107, which the factory team used last year, Super Aguri embarrassed them and held their own until the last part of the year, on occasion out-performing the very company that supports them. In hindsight, this was probably a part of their downfall over the winter. Honda went on record at their launch stating that they were feeling the burden of supporting two teams, their own and Super Aguri, adding pressure to the tiny outfit based at Leafield to find new investors to ease the brunt on Honda’s bank accounts.
When the FIA released the official entry list for 2008, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were listed as driving for the Super Aguri team, despite no official confirmation coming from Leafield. This led the squad to quickly rectify the issue and state that they were hoping to retain both drivers but no signature was yet to be printed on a contract. The delay, it would seem, stems from the ongoing issue of investment. Super Aguri are reportedly in talks with an Indian company, but naturally they would like to see an Indian driver in the squad. While Narain Karthikeyan is desperate to return to Formula One, and Karun Chandhock showed promise in a recent Red Bull test, Anthony Davidson really is the best driver currently available. And Takuma Sato is very unlikely to get the boot, seeing as the team was essentially founded for him.
Honda also stated at their launch that would like to see Davidson continue with the team as his experience from testing with BAR Honda, Honda and Super Aguri has really helped the family over the years. And correctly so, the statement is far from wrong. This, I guess, has left Super Aguri in a place currently situated between a rock and a hard place.
The car, presumably named the SA08, is yet to be launched, further adding to the speculation of troubled water surrounding the team. It was due to be launched on February 19th, a significant improvement over the date for their 2007 car – launched on the Thursday of the first race of the season. The launch is now due to happen in March in the pitlane of the Albert Park circuit, on the Thursday of the first race of the season.
The team does have a 2008 car though, although current information is sparse. We know they have a car because it passed the mandatory FIA crash tests in early February, but how much it resembles the Honda RA107 is not yet known. Hopefully, given the pace of the RA107 and current rules surrounding the use of customer chassis, the SA08 is not a derivative of last years Honda. But even if it is different, the lack of testing and late launch, combined with the financial wranglings apparently affecting the Leafield team, 2008 is going to be a difficult year for the squad.
Honestly, I have no idea. Really, I don’t. In 2006, the team did well to get to all the races. In 2007 they scored a magnificent four points and Sato even overtook eventual world champion Kimi Raikkonen and former world champion Fernando Alonso. It really was a great season for the team. But 2008? They’ll either regress to a point-less year, or they’ll come up trumps and equal their 2007 performance. It really is anybody’s guess.