Takuma Sato


Record updated

Takuma Sato
Japanese Formula One automobile racing driver. Unusually, Takuma has very little racing experience in his native country. Although he began his karting career in Japan, Sato moved to England in 1998 to pursue a career in European racing. Through 1998 and 1999 he raced in Junior Formula races throughout the continent, moving to the British Formula 3 championship at the end of 1999. In 2000 and 2001 he pursued full seasons in British Formula 3, finishing third in 2000 and winning the championship in 2001, winning 16 races in the two years, plus international races at Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort, and Macau. In 2002 Taku graduated to Formula One, aided by backing from Honda to secure a ride with Jordan. In Formula One, Sato proved to be fast but extremely erratic and prone to crashes, his low point being a tremendous crash at Austria which destroyed both his car and that of Nick Heidfeld, though it should be said that it was Nick Heidfeld who caused the crash. The season ended well however, Sato managing to finish in the points at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, his home race. 2003, Sato moved to British American Racing (BAR) as a test driver, but drove the final race of the season at Suzuka in place of Jacques Villeneuve and managed to finish sixth. In 2004 Sato drove full-time for BAR and regularly challenged for the top five positions, achieving the second-ever podium finish for a Japanese driver (after Aguri Suzuki in 1990) by finishing third at the United States Grand Prix. He also achieved a commendable second place in qualifying for the European Grand Prix, behind only Michael Schumacher. His overall points tally suffered due to a series of mechanical problems, particularly with his Honda engine. The lack of engine failures experienced by his team mate, Jenson Button led to suggestions that Sato's driving style was a significant factor in causing the engine failures. Nevertheless Sato finished the 2004 season a respectable eighth (with 34 points), helping BAR to an impressive second place in the constructors championship. He was retained by BAR-Honda for the 2005 season but the 2005 car was not as close to the front of the pack as the previous year's design, and Sato then suffered further setbacks, first with an illness that caused him to miss the Malaysian Grand Prix, then with the entire team being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix as well as banned from the two subsequent GPs for alleged cheating (more information at British American Racing article). Before the inagural Grand Prix of Turkey, Sato was put on notice by BAR to improve his racing or lose his race seat. During his in-lap at the qualification for the Grand Prix of Turkey, Sato held up Williams driver Mark Webber during his single flying lap. Sato was penalized and moved to the back of the grid, eventually finishing out of the points in ninth position. The mistakes continued in subsequent races. Sato's home race in Japan, the race where he most needed a good result, was a particular low point as Sato was disqualified for causing a collision with Jarno Trulli. At the close of the 2005 season Sato scored only a single championship point and finished a distant 24th (and last of all point scorers), whilst his team mate Jenson Button amassed 37 points, claiming 9th overall. With BAR's announcement of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello as their drivers for 2006, Sato's F1 career appeared doomed. However, hope remains with the fledgling Super Aguri F1 team. The team is backed by Honda and with Honda keen to keep their star Japanese driver on their books, Sato is widely expected to drive for the team if it makes it to the grid in 2006.