Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Brace of Japan’s current Formula 2 Drivers

But will either of them make it to Formula 1?


Are Y’all Ah-Buzz’ over the impending 2020 Summer Olympics? You know the one taking place in Tokyo a year later without Any Spectators. As we move into the Individual Competitions, i.e.; the 100 meter Hurdles let’s say, shall we?


Continuing to chronicle the latest batch of Japanese drivers ascension towards thou Pinnacle ‘O Motorsports, nee Formula 1, in the five years of the rebranded FIA Formula 2 Championship beginning in 2016,. By my very unofficial count, there’s been a total of five Japanese drivers competing in the series, with one making it to Formula 1, but we’re jumping the gun so to speak.


Nobuharu Matsushita

Series: GP2, FIA Formula 2 championship

Years: 2015-2017, 2019-2020


Nobuharu spent five years in Karting, beginning in 2005, and claimed the ’08 Open Masters  ARTA Challenge title and finished third overall in the 2010 KF1 category of the All Japan Kart Championship before graduating to Single Seaters in 2011.


Matsushita’s maiden “Cars” campaign was in the Formula  Piloted China series before moving onto the Formula Japan Challenge the following year, where he captured his first Championship title while scoring five wins and 10 Podium positions in the season’s 12 races.


In 2013 Nobuharu joined the All Japan Formula 3 Championship where he spent two seasons, claiming the championship with six Wins, five Poles and 9 Podiums in 2014.


For 2015 Matsushita moved up to the GP2 series with ART Grand Prix, claiming his maiden “W” with a Sprint race victory at the Hungaroring en route to 9th in the championship. He remained at ART Grand Prix a further two seasons, with season’s results of 11th and 6th Overall respectively.


In February, 2016 Matsushita was named a McLaren F1 Development Driver, and then the following year he tested for   Sauber during the Post Hungarian F1 Test session, naturally due to Honda’s wishes to place a Japanese driver with one of it’s supplied engine “Partners,” albeit the Sauber Honda deal ultimately fell thru, with the Swiss based team remaining a Ferrari customer team, while Red bull took up the Honda supply deal for it’s Formula 1 “B Team.”


In the inaugural 2017 FIA Formula 2 season, Nobuharu claimed a further two Sprint race wins and finished 45 points ahead of rookie team-mate Alexander Albon, who became a Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 driver in 2019 before being obliterated by Red Bull Racing’s De Facto Numero Uno Max Verstappen between 2019-20.


For 2018 Matsushita returned to Japan to contest the Super formula series, presumably in part to the Sauber Honda engine, Err Power Unit (PU) deal faultering? Before returning to F2 with Carlin for 2019, arguably his best Formula 2 season on the basis of winning the Austrian and Italian Feature races enroute to a second sixth place season’s finish.


Now in his fifth season in F2, and having been previously passed up by Red Bull in favour of Albon who finished third overall in 2018 for the Toro rosso Hondre’ ride, Matsushita spent his final F2 campaign with MP Motorsport, but Quit in September following the Mugello round, claiming P15 in the championship standings.


Returning to Japan, Nobuharu like those before him is now splitting his time between driving “Saloons” in the Super GT series along with contesting the Open Wheel Super Formula Championship.




Marino Sato

Series: FIA Formula 2 Championship

Years: 2019-Present


First ‘N Foremost, don’t be Fooled by that last name, as Marino is Not related to Takuma Sato, Y’all know that guy who’s won some ‘lil ‘Ol 500 miler’ Oval race at Mother Speedway twice!


Marino began his Single Seater career competing in the Italian F4 Championship between 2015-16 with Overall finishes of 10th and 18th respectively, along with claiming his lone series victory in 2016.


For 2017 Sato graduated to the F3 European Championship, again with less than flattering results, finishing 19th and 16th Overall.


For 2019 Marino moved onto the Euro Formula Open Championship which he thoroughly Dominated wit an impressive nine wins en route to the title, along with helping Motopark, who he’d raced for the past two years in the F3 European Championship to also win the Euro Formula Open Teams Championship.


Following the annual Formula 1 Summer Break, Sato made his Formula 2 debut for Campos Racing at the Mighty Spa’, (Spa Francorchamps) as Arjun Maini’s replacement for the remainder of the season, finishing  22nd.


Marino contested his first full F2 season with a switch to Trident Racing where he finished a modest 8th place. Sato was retained for another Formula 2 season with Trident, alongside his new team-mate, the rookie Niederlander’ Bent Viscaal for 2021.


Sato took part in the 2020 Season’s end Formula 1 Young Drivers outing at Abu Dhabi for Scuderia AlphaTauri alongside countryman Yuki Tsunoda, where he finished a respectable P13.