Red Bull Formula 1 junior Dan Ticktum rued a difficult start to his first full Super Formula campaign after finishing eighth out of 12 classified finishers in the Suzuka curtain-raiser.
Ticktum qualified 16th for what was his third Super Formula race after failing to knit together a clean lap in a frenetic qualifying session marred by red flag periods.
A good start and series of quick opening laps allowed him to break inside the top 10, before an ill-timed safety car meant his Mugen team had to double stack in the pits, costing Ticktum - who was behind teammate Tomoki Nojiri - a heap of time.
The 19-year-old lost more places after pitting again to switch back to soft tyres during another safety car period, but recovered enough to take the final championship point in eighth after Team LeMans’ Kazuya Oshima was handed a post-race 30 second penalty.
Ticktum said that although he could have started the race from higher up on the grid, he struggled with both his set-up and grip all weekend.
“Well qualifying would have been good if I had got a chance to put a lap in,” Ticktum told Motorsport.com. "I didn’t get a chance to do one lap because of all the red flags.
“It was a bit like Macau to be honest. It was just who got a good lap at the right time to be honest. And I didn’t unfortunately. Wasn’t anything I could do about it.
“I think our pace this weekend was not amazing anyway. It was possible to know top 10 in qualifying. Maybe eighth, ninth - something like that. But I didn’t get a chance.
“Then the race was crazy. Unfortunately in the first pitstop I had to wait behind my teammate, lost a lot of time. So that was unfortunate.
“Just generally struggled with balance and grip for every session. Very, very difficult weekend. So I tried to do the best I could.”
Ticktum feels that although Mugen, which powered Naoki Yamamoto to last year’s drivers’ title, made tangible progress over the weekend, there are still areas where it lacks.
“I think where we started at the beginning of the weekend to where we are our now, we made a big improvement,” he explained.
“But the baseline we started with, the balance was not so good. We just tried to focus on making the balance good. Now the balance is quite good, but we are lacking overall grip.
“We need to try and figure out why we are not quite maximising everything. Hopefully the team can figure out where we are lacking and I will try to help them as much I can.”
All Super Formula races are broadcast live and for free on Motorsport.tv.