Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda are delighted to announce that Takuma Sato will be part of their driver line-up next season after reaching a three-year agreement with the 25-year-old Japanese driver.
Under the terms of this agreement, Takuma has been nominated as B.A.R's reserve driver for 2003 with the option of him becoming one of the team's race drivers in 2004 and 2005.
Takuma got his first season of Formula One courtesy of B.A.R when he tested for the team in 2001. The team was impressed with his driving ability and technical feedback that year, but with a full driver line-up in place for 2002 and no race seat available, Taku decided that he should race for Jordan to enable him to gain more experience. Coming straight to F1 from Formula 3 and having by-passed the F3000 stepping stone, he had no experience of the majority of this year's 17 Grand Prix circuits. B.A.R retained a close interest in Takuma's progress and he returns to the team with valuable experience under his belt.
Takuma follows in the footsteps of drivers like Mika Hakkinen and Olivier Panis, who first raced and then moved into testing roles before going on to secure race seats once again. Takuma is pragmatic about his switch from race seat to test driver but excited at the prospect of being part of B.A.R's long-term ambitions.
He commented: "It's a shame that I can't race for Jordan next season but I leave the team on good terms and I don't see testing for B.A.R as a step backwards. I want to be with a team where my driving ability is the most important consideration rather than other factors."
"2003 will give me the opportunity to assist with the development of the car, which is very important to my own development as an F1 driver. I had very little testing in the second half of 2002 and mileage is extremely important in Formula 1 because the cars are full of technology and it takes time to find improvements."
"B.A.R is a different team to the one I knew before and from what I see, the changes are definitely for the better. I'm very excited about working with them and I feel very positive that this is the best move for me."
David Richards, B.A.R Team Principal, commented: "We are delighted to welcome Takuma back. He did a great job testing for us in 2001 and his year racing for Jordan has given him much-needed experience. Most importantly however, I believe Taku is the brightest talent to have emerged from Japan to date and he is in Formula One on merit, as he confirmed with his exciting performance in this year's Japanese Grand Prix."
"Obviously, having a Japanese driver greatly assists with our direct communication with the Japanese engineers at Honda and continues to develop our seamless link between the two companies."