As expected, BAR has announced team test driver Takuma Sato will be promoted to a race seat in 2004. The 26 year old Japanese, who will partner Jenson Button, started in F1 with BAR as tester in 2001. Last season he debuted as a race driver for ...
As expected, BAR has announced team test driver Takuma Sato will be promoted to a race seat in 2004. The 26 year old Japanese, who will partner Jenson Button, started in F1 with BAR as tester in 2001. Last season he debuted as a race driver for Jordan and scored his first points at his home race in Japan, when he finished fifth. This year he returned to BAR as test driver. Sato replaces Jacques Villeneuve, who has been with BAR for five years.
"We welcome Takuma as Jenson's team-mate for 2004. He has done an excellent job for us in testing this year and has confirmed our long-held belief that he has enormous potential. Takuma is widely regarded as a very fast driver and he has had a meteoric rise to Formula One."
"When he drove for Jordan in 2002 he had just four years' prior racing experience and during that first season we saw flashes of brilliance, which he underlined with an impressive performance in the Japanese Grand Prix last year. After a further year of testing with B*A*R in 2003, we firmly believe that he deserves the opportunity to translate his natural speed into consistent race performances."
"With Jenson moving into his fifth season in Formula One and his second with B*A*R, he will provide the counter-balance of experience alongside the fresh enthusiasm of Takuma. A young and hungry driver line-up is essential for us to move closer to achieving our Championship ambitions."
Sato is reported to currently have a three year contract with BAR, only one of which was as a test driver, so it's no surprise to see him back in competition. "Of course, I am extremely happy to be confirmed as race driver for B*A*R next year. This is what I have been working hard all year to achieve and now that the decision is made I am looking forward to proving myself again in the team next year."
"A year out of racing has been tough for me, but I am confident that the work we have done this year in testing has been extremely valuable in helping me and the team become a strong partnership. I have built good relationships with many people in the team this year and feel very positive that together we can be successful next season. Now, of course, I can't wait to start the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix in March."
Speaking on behalf of BAR's title sponsor Lucky Strike, Jimmi Rembiszewksi, Marketing Director for British American Tobacco, said: "We would like to pay tribute to Jacques Villeneuve's determination to succeed over the past five years. He made a courageous decision to join B*A*R and put his career in the hands of the challenging and innovative individuals who founded the team. We wish him every success in the future and we look forward to Takuma demonstrating his true potential next season."
BAR's engine partner Honda has been actively supporting Sato's career and was keen to see him return to a race seat. "Everyone at Honda is looking forward to working with Takuma again next year," said Takeo Kiuchi, Project Leader of Honda F1.
"We have all been very impressed with the development work he has done this season and we are sure all that effort will be turned into race results next year. I would also like to offer my thanks to Jacques for his support over the four years that Honda has been with the team. We wish him every success for the future."