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Honda's Sato not ready to give up on overseas dream

Honda Super Formula driver Ren Sato says he is not ready to give up on a chance to race overseas in future despite failing to impress last year as a Red Bull junior.

Ren Sato, TCS NAKAJIMA RACING

Sato was given the chance to represent Red Bull in Super Formula last year for his rookie season in Japan’s top single-seater series, as Team Goh set its itself the objective of preparing its driver for a possible future in Formula 2.

However, the 21-year-old was only able to get on the podium once all season in the penultimate race of the year, and his lack of results in the first half of the year meant he was never seriously considered for a move to Europe.

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With Team Goh’s future in Super Formula in doubt, Sato has joined Nakajima Racing in place of Toshiki Oyu for his sophomore campaign this year.

While he will no longer be a Red Bull junior driver, he is still hoping that a strong season could lead to opportunities to prove himself overseas.

“I’m not yet at the age where I should give up [on racing in Europe],” Sato told Motorsport.com. “First of all I want to get results this year, and I hope that will increase my opportunities after that. 

“I think I had a chance last year, but I just wasn’t quite able to arrive at the point of winning races. But this year I think I have another chance, so I want to give it my all.”

 

Sato raced in French Formula 4 in 2020 with Honda backing alongside another one of the Japanese marque’s proteges, Ayumu Iwasa, but it was Iwasa who won the title, earning a chance to step up to FIA Formula 3 while Sato returned to Japan.

Iwasa embarked on an impressive rookie Formula 2 season last year that yielded two feature race wins and fifth in the championship, and remains in the series for 2023.

Sato said seeing his old rival perform well on the global stage can only be good for him.

“I know how good Iwasa is, and seeing someone that I used to race together with doing so well, it gives me confidence that I can be in the fight if I go abroad,” said Sato. “He is definitely faster than he was back then, but it’s not like I’ve been standing still either.”

Sato kicked off his tenure at Nakajima Racing by setting the fastest time in last month’s post-season rookie test at Suzuka, outpacing three-time champion teammate Naoki Yamamoto in the process.

Confirming he’ll continue to work with chief engineer Yuki Katoh for the 2023 season, Sato is hoping to use his test performance as positive momentum.

“As it was the last test of the year, I think every team had a different programme, but being at the top of the timesheets is definitely a positive, and I think that gives me a confidence boost going into this year,” Sato said.

“Last season I gained a lot of experience in terms of driving and how to go forward with the set-up. I want to make the most of that this year and qualify in the top positions.”

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