Toro Rosso confirms Yamamoto's Suzuka practice outing
Naoki Yamamoto will make his Formula 1 weekend debut driving for Toro Rosso in the Japanese Grand Prix’s first Friday practice session, as predicted by Motorsport.com.
The Honda-backed driver is fighting for a second Super Formula title in a row and will return to Suzuka at the end of October for the final round of Japan’s premier single-seater series.
Yamamoto has driven Toro Rosso’s simulator and spent time with the team at European races earlier in 2019 to get to know its engineering staff.
Usually a driver who wants to take part in FP1 would apply for a free-practice only superlicence and complete 300km of running in an F1 car beforehand to qualifying.
However, as reigning Super Formula and Super GT champion Yamamoto comfortably satisfies the requirement for an outright F1 superlicence, which he has obtained, simplifying the process.
Yamamoto said his FP1 outing would fulfill a childhood “dream” and that “to get this chance at Suzuka, a very important circuit for all Japanese racing drivers, in front of such a big crowd of Japanese fans, will make the experience even more special”.
He said: “My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend.
“On a personal note, I want to enjoy the experience of driving an F1 car as much as possible and I will be trying my very best to get the most out of it.
“It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”
The last Japanese driver in F1 was Kamui Kobayashi in 2014, while Honda last had a homegrown driver behind the wheel of one of its cars when Takuma Sato raced for the Super Aguri team in the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix.
Honda wants a driver to race in F1 again but its highest-placed proteges on the F1 feeder series radar have so far failed to secure the necessary superlicence points for Honda to take advantage of its relationship with Red Bull and its junior team Toro Rosso.
Some talks have taken place about whether Yamamoto would be viable, but he would be a considerable gamble aged 31 and having never raced in Europe.
“We are pleased that Japanese fans will now get the opportunity to see Yamamoto, a Honda-supported Japanese driver at the wheel of a current F1 car at our own Suzuka circuit, as part of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend,” said Honda’s brand and communication boss Katsuhide Moriyama.
“I would like to thank Toro Rosso and Red Bull for giving Yamamoto this great opportunity.
“We hope Naoki makes the most of this opportunity, that he learns from it and that it helps him as a racing driver.
“We also hope that seeing Yamamoto on track, will serve as an inspiration to young Japanese drivers, so that in the near future, we can once again have Japanese drivers competing in Formula 1.”
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