Saturday, July 31, 2021

Former Japanese Formula 1 “One Hit Wonders”

As how many of Y’all will recognize these virtually Unheard of F1 Drivers? Beside Raymond Hando…


Obviously a lot has occurred since I originally penned my two stories about Japanese Open Wheel Racing drivers over a Gory Decade ago, first in my (2007) nod to F1 in Japan and Formula 1. Then followed by my ’08 No Fenders tome Japanese Open Wheel warriors.


As that’s a total understatement with the horrendous outcome of the long forgotten 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, where Jules Bianchi collided with a track recovery vehicle and ultimately Died from major Head Injury. As can it really almost be seven years ago that happened? Since Nobody talks about that anymore…


yet having scribbled those stories some Gory 13-14 years ago, prior to the withdrawal of the Japanese Auto manufacturers from Formula 1 and the World Rally championship (WRC) during the Economic Recession of 2008. Along with the departure of its top flight Open Wheel racers from the pinnacle of Motorsports, seeing F1 devoid of any Japanese drivers for the past six years-plus, (2013, 2015-2020) I thought it was High time to update this languishing story with Us now being firmly ensconced in this year’s delayed summer Olympics and ironically, Honda once again leaving Formula 1 at season’s end.


As Y’all may wish to visit my long ago “Penned” story chronicling Japan’s involvement in Formula 1 in the following No Fenders tome…


As I left off with Takuma Sato then plying his trade for who Professor (Steve) Matchett coined “Super Best Friends,” aka Super Aguri in Formula 1 during the 2007 F1 season.


Whilestateside, I regaled Y’all about Hideki Mutoh  driving his final IndyCar season for the quickly fading, now long defunct Newman Haas Lanigan Racing outfit in 2011 after beginning his IndyCar career at Andretti Green Racing in ’08.


As Y’all can read ‘bout the Cavalcade ‘O former Japanese Open Wheel Warriors in the following No Fenders tome…


Takuma Sato

Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

DOB: 1/28/77, Age 44


Formula 1

Teams: Jordan, BAR, Super Aguri (2002-2008)

First Race: 2002 Australian Grand Prix

Last Race: 2008 Spanish Grand Prix



Teams: KV Racing Technology, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Andretti Autosport, RLLR (2010-Present)


Like the majority of my No Fenders tomes,, (including this one) whilst trying to “Briefly” Chronicle Takuma Sato’s racing career, it was simply getting way too long in thoust Tooth and hence, I’ll post Sato’s bio in a separate No Fenders story.


For the 2006 formula 1 season, Honda hastily convinced Aguri Suzuki to become a Team Owner with Honda’s “b Team” primarily in order to keep Takuma Sato in Formula 1, due to the Uproar by the Japanese Public over Honda’s “Sacking” of Sato! With Suzuki’s intentions of running an All Japanese F1 Driver line-up.


Yuji Ide

Birthplace: Saitama, Japan

DOB: 1/21/75, Age 46


Formula 1

Teams: Super Aguri (2006)

First Race: 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix

Last Race: 2006 San Marino Grand Prix


Yuji Ide could arguably be viewed as a Formula 1 “Punching Bag” reference, having apparently been named one of the five worst Formula 1 Drivers in a 2009 issue of F1 Racing Magazine. Yet it’s worth noting that Team Principal Aguri Suzuki later noted that Yuji had had only 200km of F1 testing experience upon being drafted  into his Formula 1 team!


As Yuji began Go Kart racing in 1990 and won multiple Titles before graduating to Cars in the ’94 All Japan F3 series, and finished runner-up in the 2005 Formula Nippon Challenge before his unexpected Call-up to F1 the following year. As Yuki wasn’t your prototypical F1 Rookie at Age 31, having little European Single Seaters experience and lacking proficiency in English!


Ide did little to impress in his scant four Grands Prix outings, with a best Qualifying position of 21st on Debut in Sekir, as Kimi Raikkonen Failed to Qualify, starting Dead last in P22. With Yuji failing to finish in his first two Grands Prix.


Yuji’s One and Only finish was 13th at Melbourne, albeit 2 laps behind. Ide was also blamed for Blocking Rubens Barichello in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix and made multiple Spins over the weekend.


Yet following his fourth and final Grands Prix Start at Imola, the team demoted him to Test Driver, promoting Frank “the Tank” Montagny as Takuma Sato’s team-mate for the European Grand Prix.


Following the FIA talking to Team Boss Aguri-san’ and saying they felt Yuji needed more experience. Being largely due to his first lap collision at San Marino with Midland F1’s Christijan Albers, causing Albers to Barrel Roll several times and land Upside Down! With Ide’s FIA Superlicense being subsequently revoked and he never raced again in Formula 1.


Sakon Yamamoto

Birthplace: Toyohashi, Japan

DOB: 7/9/82, Age 39


Formula 1

Teams: Super Aguri, Spyker, HRT(2006-2007, 2010)

First Race: 2006 German Grand Prix

Last Race: 2010 Korean Grand Prix


Sakon Yamamoto began his Karting career at the Suzuka Circuit School and steadily moved up the ranks and ultimately became a Jordan Grand Prix Test Driver for the Japanese grand Prix weekend in 2005. In 2006 he was named as super Aguri’s Test Driver, taking the role after his compatriot Yuji Ide had been vanquished from Formula 1. Yet Sakon was quickly inserted into a race seat as Frank Montagny’s replacement since Aguri Suzuki wished to run an All Japanese F1 Outfit.


Yamamoto struggled mightily in the fairly uncompetitive Super Best Friends machinery, including crashing one of it’s brand new SA06 chassis at Hockenheim during his F1 debut weekend, and remained largely unseen as a Tail Gunner Charlie for the remainder of the season, losing out to Ant’, aka Anthony Davidson for the team’s second seat for 2007.


Yamamoto remained with Super Aguri as the team’s Test Driver for ’07 before Christijan Albers left Spyker mid-season. As Sakon was named as his replacement in July and made his debut at the Hungaroring. Once again Yamamoto toiled in relative anonymity in another Backmarker F1 Team.


For ’08 Sakon was named as one of the Renault Test Drivers, albeit just making Public Demonstration runs, while Romain Grosjean and Lucas de Grassi would participate in selected F1 Practice sessions. Midway thru 2008 e returned to the GP2 series  with ART Grand Prix and finished 9th Overall in the 2008-09 GP2 Asia Championship.


In 2010, Hispania Racing Team (HRT) selected Yamamoto as it’s Test Driver along with F1 Free Practice sessions, making his F1 return at the Turkish grand Prix during practice.


The team elected to install Sakon as Bruno Senna’s substitute for that year’s British Grand Prix, before he replaced the team’s other race driver, current Sky Sports F1 Pundit Karun chandhok beginning at the German Grand Prix for the remainder of the season.


Suffering a bout of Food Poisoning, new Test Driver Christian Klein Deputized for Sakon at the Singapore round, before Yamamoto capped his Formula 1 career with one final Home race at Suzukand the following South Korean round before Klein took his seat for the season’s final two races.