Matsushita takes blame for heartbreaking Suzuka penalty

Nobuharu Matsushita has shouldered the blame for the penalty that cost him and his B-Max Racing Team a shot at their first Super Formula win at Suzuka.

After securing pole position on Saturday, Matsushita made a clean getaway and led the early stages of the 30-lap season finale, only to be handed a drive-through penalty for a start infraction.

The ex-Formula 2 racer dropped to the rear of the field as a result and could only recover to 12th place at the finish.

Matsushita shouldered the blame for squandering an opportunity to conclude the season with a victory, but said he didn’t realise he had done anything wrong until news of the penalty emerged.

“It’s downhill into Turn 1, so I released the brake [slightly] before the start,” Matsushita explained to Motorsport.com. “I was slowly moving and they gave me the drive-through penalty for that. 

“It was my fault. I didn’t know [the penalty] was coming], I just moved by less than 5cm, and before lights out, I stopped again, and they got me for that.”

Asked if he felt he had the pace to win the race, which eventually went to Dandelion driver Nirei Fukuzumi, Matsushita said: “I was not the quickest car, but at this track it’s not that easy to overtake. 

“It’s a real shame. I could have been P2 or P3 in the championship [with a win]. But it is what it is, can’t change it.”

Matsushita was participating in his first full season since 2018 for B-Max after contesting the latter part of the 2020 campaign for the one-car squad, albeit missing the Fuji season opener owing to a dispute with engine supplier Honda.

He scored two podium finishes at Autopolis and Motegi, with the Suzuka finale marking his first non-score since the second round of the season at the same track - leaving him eighth in the final standings.

While uncertain about his 2022 plans, Matsushita says his performance this weekend has given him the confidence to mount a title assault if Honda keeps him on.

“I am ready to fight for the championship next year,” said Matsushita. “If I am here, I definitely feel we can go for it. So let’s see what Honda says about next year.”

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