Takuma Sato will join Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's driver line-up next season after reaching a three-year agreement with the team. Under the terms of this agreement, Takuma has been nominated as B.A.R's test and reserve driver for 2003 with the option of him becoming one of the team's race drivers in 2004 and 2005.
Takuma will be actively involved with all aspects of team promotion and development and will be carrying out an extensive test programme next year so that B.A.R can develop into a team capable of challenging for the World Championship.
Q: It's a very good deal for you to join BAR, isn't it? Being test driver for 2003 may be viewed by some people as one step back, but you could take two steps forward as a race driver for 2004.
Takuma Sato: It will be good. It's a real shame of course that I will not race for Jordan next year, but I fully understand the situation now and I leave the team on good terms. They boosted me a lot and we achieved a lot. It was a fantastic experience with Jordan, but we had to find the next opportunity with BAR. Obviously going back to being a test driver is not ideal, but I will be developing a car that I could be racing in 2004, which will be good preparation. And who knows, there might even be a chance to race in 2003 as I am the reserve race driver."
Q: Even if you don't race in 2003, you will do more mileage with BAR as a test driver than you did with Jordan as a race driver.
TS: Exactly. Since the German Grand Prix in late July I had hardly any testing apart from 50-kilometre shakedowns. All I had was one day at Monza and two days at Silverstone between then and the final round at Suzuka. I've spoken to Anthony Davidson about it - I know him well because we were Formula 3 team-mates in 2001 - and he did maybe twice as much mileage driving a Formula 1 car as me! And mileage is so important in Formula 1.
Q: You're following in the footsteps of Mika Hakkinen, Olivier Panis and Fernando Alonso, who have all been race drivers, moved onto testing roles and then got back into race seats.
TS: It's definitely a good thing. It will make me much stronger I think. Formula 1 cars are full of technology and it takes time to find improvements. It's a good opportunity to drive the car a lot.
Q: Are you looking forward to working with BAR again, after testing for the team in 2001?
TS: Yes, very happy. There have been some changes at the team since I was there as a test driver but I still know a lot of the people there and enjoyed working with them before. I am already excited about the possibility of a race.