The man for whom the Super Aguri F1 Team was formed, Takuma Sato, refuses to consider retirement despite the loss of his ride. Financially strapped Super Aguri, which ceased Formula One participation Tuesday, was placed Thursday under the ...
The man for whom the Super Aguri F1 Team was formed, Takuma Sato, refuses to consider retirement despite the loss of his ride. Financially strapped Super Aguri, which ceased Formula One participation Tuesday, was placed Thursday under the supervision of administrators who will attempt to sell the team as a motorsport entry.
"I feel I am driving at the top of my game and want to give so much more to may fans and supporters in Japan and worldwide who have been so incredibly supportive to me during my whole career," Sato said. "At this time, I am not sure what will happen next as I have been concentrating all my efforts on racing for SAF1. I will be looking at my options with my manager and will make an announcement once it is appropriate. However, I have no intention to retire from F1."
Sato's manager is Briton Andrew Gilbert-Scott, a former race driver.
Super Aguri was formed by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki late in 2005 after Honda cut Sato from the F1 team it took over from BAR. Super Aguri's demise came after a key sponsor defaulted on payments last season and new financing could not be found this year, and in the wake of Honda drawing a line under its support. Super Aguri owes Honda on the order of $100 million. Honda supplied engines and technology from the start, with chassis thrown in for the '07 season. Super Aguri finished ninth among 11 teams in the FIA World Constructors' Championship last season, although McLaren was stripped of points after an industrial espionage scandal.
Super Aguri became quite popular with fans of Sato then with fans of F1, who realized just what an effort it took for this team to place itself on the grid race after race. Working at the former Arrows headquarters in Leafield, England, the team operated on a budget a fraction the size of competitive teams and with far fewer staff members, nearly a third of whom were cut from last season to this. Ninety staff members contested four races this season.
Sato, 31, began racing karts at 19 and from 2002 raced in F1 for Jordan, BAR and BAR Honda. He scored 34 points in 2004, when BAR finished second in the constructors championship. He scored all four of Super Aguri's points last season, notably with a sixth place in Canada that included a classic pass on defending world driving champion Fernando Alonso in a McLaren. Sato showed a vibrancy that fans applauded. His race starts, typically from the back of the grid, moved him up through the field quickly and at times spectacularly.
Sato's fans Wednesday demonstrated in front of Honda headquarters in Aoyama, Japan. The Honda board Tuesday vetoed an 11th-hour effort by Suzuki for takeover by the Weigl Group, a mid-sized German company dealing in automotive and machine technology and engineering.
"Every single person at Leafield did the most amazing job when the team started two-and-a-half years ago by getting us to the grid in just four months, finishing in the top 10 in our very first year and scoring four points last season," Sato said. "They are a group of real professionals who can do almost the impossible.
"I have massive respect for everything that Aguri-san has done for us. He has worked so hard to keep things going. I will also never forget all the team members who have put so much effort into this team and would like to thank them for what was achieved it the short life of the SAF1 team. It is incredible to think that just one year ago we scored our first-ever point, and the emotion and excitement of that moment has turned to such disappointment just one year on."
Also cut adrift by Super Aguri closing and also pledging to stay in F1 was Englishman Anthony Davidson, whose Super Aguri ride represented a long-fought effort to take an F1 race seat. Davidson started in F1 in 2001 as a test driver for BAR. In 2002 he started two races for another now extinct small team, Minardi, to whom he paid 250,000 pounds for the ride. He was test driver for BAR beginning in 2004 through to the team's incarnation as Honda in 2006. He joined Super Aguri to race last season.
"I'm obviously very disappointed that the team was unable to see out the 2008 season and beyond, and gutted not just for myself but for all of the guys at the factory who have worked so hard," Davidson said on his website. "It showed their great dedication and loyalty to keep fighting given the uncertainty over the future.
"I think for me personally the first four races were very positive and I continued to build on what I learnt from my rookie season last year. After several years as a test driver in F1, I'm glad that I had the chance to show that I can race and to prove my speed, and I'm grateful to the team and Honda for the opportunity. Although it's a difficult time of the year to find an alternative option as the season is well under way, I'm glad that I took the opportunity to compete again this year and strongly believe that I have unfinished business in Formula One."
Administrators working to sell the team say interest has been expressed by several groups. Joint administrator Philip Long issued a statement that read, "This administration provides a unique opportunity to get into high-level motorsport without having to build an operation from scratch. In terms of capability, a new team could easily be up and running for the 2009 Formula One season.
"Virtually everything is in place, including the people, the technical expertise, the laboratories and testing facilities. A new team could walk in and take over a fully operational unit from Day One."
Super Aguri does not own a wind tunnel. It used Britain's National Physical Lab in Teddington, England.