Suzuka Super Formula: Nakajima cruises to win first race of 2017

Former Grand Prix driver Kazuki Nakajima won the first Super Formula race of the 2017 season at Suzuka unchallenged, after benefiting from pitting in a safety car phase.

Suzuka Super Formula: Nakajima cruises to win first race of 2017
Kazuki Nakajima, Team Tom's
Yuhi Sekiguchi, Team Impul
Andre Lotterer, Team Tom's
Pierre Gasly, Team Mugen
Felix Rosenqvist, Team LeMans
Atmosphere in the pit lane
Pierre Gasly, Team Mugen

At the start of the race, Nakajima had a strong getaway from pole position, with Naoki Yamamoto getting past front-row starter Yuji Kunimoto for second.

The on-track battle, however, was soon subsided by strategy, with more than half the field pitting in the first four laps to get the mandatory stop out of the way.

Defending champion Kunimoto led the pack of early stoppers, which also included Hiroaki Ishiura, Andre Lotterer, Yuhi Sekiguchi, Felix Rosenqvist and Pierre Gasly.

However, the top two decided to stay out, a decision that paid off when Super Formula returnee Kazuya Oshima spun and stalled at the exit of Spoon on Lap 23, bringing out the safety car.

Taking advantage of the situation, Nakajima and Yamamoto immediately dived into the pits and managed to keep their positions intact.

After the safety car phase ended, Nakajima was quick to pull away, establishing a two-second cushion in just one lap.

The 32-year-old went on to secure a comfortable win, his first one in Super Formula since Autopolis 2015.

Yamamoto finished five seconds adrift in second, while Kunimoto secured the final spot on the podium.

Ishiura was classified in fourth place, while Lotterer held off a charging Koudai Tsukakoshi to finish fifth.

Further back, Daisuke Nakajima took seventh while Takuya Izawa bagged the final championship point in eighth.

Kamui Kobayashi and Gasly had their own tussle in the midfield, with the Japanese driver eventually emerging out on top after making a fine move at the chicane.

The duo first banged wheels after Kobayashi came out of the pits on cold tyres, with Gasly using the additional grip of his Yokohama tyres to make a brave pass on the outside at the Esses.

However, the KCMG driver hit back after a few laps, sealing the ninth spot.

Even though Gasly failed to score a point on his debut, he finished as the top rookie in 10th.

Rosenqvist, another driver to lose out because of an early pitstop, finished only 11th, while Cassidy’s race was compromised by the need of making an additional stop in the latter stages of the race.

Macau Grand Prix star Kenta Yamashita could finish no higher than 14th, while Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough spun at Turn 1 with just four laps remaining.

Race Results:

Po.DriverCar Name / EngineGap
1  Kazuki Nakajima TOM'S-Toyota  -
2  Naoki Yamamoto Mugen-Honda  5.086
3  Yuji Kunimoto Inging-Toyota 8.823
4  Hiroaki Ishiura Inging-Toyota 9.408
5  Andre Lotterer TOM's-Toyota 10.800
6  Koudai Tsukakoshi Real Racing-Honda 11.266
7  Daisuke Nakajima Nakajima Racing-Honda 16.907
8  Takuya Izawa Dandelion-Honda 18.307
9  Kamui Kobayashi KCMG-Toyota  18.950
10  Pierre Gasly Mugen-Honda 21.561
11  Felix Rosenqvist Team LeMans-Toyota 22.115
12  Yuhi Sekiguchi Team Impul-Toyota 23.691
13  Narain Karthikeyan Nakajima Racing-Honda 24.204
14  Kenta Yamashita Kondo-Toyota 24.893
15  Takashi Kogure B-Max Racing-Honda  28.398
16  Tomoki Nojiri Dandelion-Honda 36.289
17  Nick Cassidy Kondo-Toyota 1 Lap
18  Jann Mardenborough Team Impul-Toyota 4 Laps
DNF  Kazuya Oshima Team LeMans-Honda -
Suzuka Super Formula: Nakajima takes pole, Gasly eighth

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About this article

Series Super Formula
Event Suzuka
Location Suzuka
Drivers Kazuki Nakajima
Author Rachit Thukral