Super Formula 2018 - Driver by driver season preview

The 2018 Super Formula grid may not have a reigning F2/GP2 champion waiting to get his grand prix shot, but there’s no shortage of quality drivers - whether homegrown or international.

The 32nd season of Japanese’s premier racing series will be the last one to feature the SF14, and a strong pre-season run from Honda could potentially change the pecking order.

Motorsport.com analyses the prospects of the 19 drivers who will contest the full season...

Hiroaki Ishiura, Cerumo Inging

Hiroaki Ishiura, Cerumo Inging
1/19

Debut: 2008
Wins: 4
Title(s): 2
2017 championship position: 1st (33.5 points)

Ishiura is one of those drivers who get better with age, and with two titles in the last three years, it’s hard to bet against the 36-year-old. Moreover, Ishiura’s speed and Inging’s Super Formula prowess make for a potent combination.

Photo by: Takahiro Masuda

Yuji Kunimoto, Cerumo Inging

Yuji Kunimoto, Cerumo Inging
2/19

Debut: 2011
Wins: 2
Title(s): 1
2017 championship position: 9th (7 points)

2016 champion Kunimoto was completely overshadowed by teammate Ishiura last year, and was unable to make an impression with Toyota in his LMP1 forays at Spa and Le Mans. As such, 2018 will be about getting back his mojo.

Photo by: Takahiro Masuda

Nick Cassidy, Kondo Racing

Nick Cassidy, Kondo Racing
3/19

Debut: 2017
Wins: 0
Title(s): 0
2017 championship position: 10th (7 points)

A 10th-place championship result in his maiden Super Formula season belied the fact Cassidy managed to score a podium and a pole for a team that hasn’t won a race since 2008. Moreover, last year’s Super GT title illustrated that the Kiwi is not only quick, but can also gel well with a Japanese team.

Photo by: Takahiro Masuda

Kenta Yamashita, Kondo Racing

Kenta Yamashita, Kondo Racing
4/19

Debut: 2017
Wins: 0
Title(s): 0
2017 championship position: 11th (6.5 points)

Yamashita received international spotlight when he finished fourth in the 2016 Macau F3 race. While he was less impressive in his rookie Super Formula season last year, there are plenty of reasons to believe that he can pull off a stronger campaign this time around.

Photo by: Jun Goto

Tomoki Nojiri, Dandelion Racing

Tomoki Nojiri, Dandelion Racing
5/19

Debut: 2014
Wins: 1
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 17th (2 points)

Nojiri heads into 2018 off the back of a difficult campaign, in which he finished 17th in the championship with a measly two points. With Nobuharu Matsushita joining on the other side of Dandelion garage, the 28-year-old will have no option but to step up his game this season.

Nobuharu Matsushita, Dandelion Racing

Nobuharu Matsushita, Dandelion Racing
6/19

Debut: 2018
Wins: N/A
Titles: N/A
2017 championship position: N/A

Super Formula provides Matsushita with a chance to prove himself away from the GP2/F2 spotlight. While he isn’t exactly racing for a top-line team, improvements made by Honda over the winter should boost his chances of a good result.

Pietro Fittipaldi, Team LeMans

Pietro Fittipaldi, Team LeMans
7/19

Debut: 2018
Wins: N/A
Titles: N/A
2017 championship position: N/A

Having beaten Williams Formula 1 junior Oliver Rowland to the race seat and compared favourable against teammate Kazuya Oshima in testing, expectations will be high indeed from the grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi. But with the Formula V8 3.5 champion due to miss two races, and still there being some doubts over Team LeMans’ pace, wins and podiums are unlikely.

Kazuya Oshima, Team LeMans

Kazuya Oshima, Team LeMans
8/19

Debut: 2009
Wins: 1
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 12th (6 points)

Oshima is a proven race winner in both Super Formula and Super GT, but his return to single-seaters last year - admittedly against a teammate of Felix Rosenqvist's calibre - was nothing short of a disappointment. Now that he’s has reacquainted himself with formula cars, expect him to shine once again.

Photo by: Takahiro Masuda

Nirei Fukuzumi, Team Mugen

Nirei Fukuzumi, Team Mugen
9/19

Debut: 2018
Wins: N/A
Titles: N/A
2017 championship position: N/A

Super Formula may only be a side-gig for Fukuzumi, but he will be keenly watched by his bosses at Honda. As such, he has to perform at the top of his game in Super Formula, while also not getting distracted from his Formula 2 campaign.

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Naoki Yamamoto, Team Mugen

Naoki Yamamoto, Team Mugen
10/19

Debut: 2010
Wins: 3
Titles: 1
2017 championship position: 9th (10.5 points)

Yamamoto succumbed under pressure from Pierre Gasly last year, but with the Red Bull protege off to F1, expect him to return to his very best again. The Mugen driver is one of the fastest on the grid, as his 2013 title-winning campaign attests, and could well feature in the championship hunt if Honda continues its improved form.

Koudai Tsukakoshi, Real Racing

Koudai Tsukakoshi, Real Racing
11/19

Debut: 2009
Wins: 1
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 15th (3 points)

Tsukakoshi continues his long-standing relationship with Real Racing, which may be potent force in Super GT but is less of a threat in Super Formula. However, the 31-year-old was quick in testing, so expect him to do better than last year.

Kamui Kobayashi, KCMG

Kamui Kobayashi, KCMG
12/19

Debut: 2015
Wins: 0
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 7th (16.5 points)

Kobayashi did well to finish seventh in the championship last year, despite racing for the single-car KCMG team. Given his racing credentials and appetite, he should be racing at the sharp end of the grid this year - possibly knocking on the podium door on a regular basis.

Yuhi Sekiguchi, Team Impul

Yuhi Sekiguchi, Team Impul
13/19

Debut: 2016
Wins: 4
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 4th (25 points)

Sekiguchi has been a revelation of sorts, having scored four wins since his Super Formula debut in 2016 and featured in the title fight in both his seasons. Consistency is one area where he lacks, though, and it could well be the difference between winning the championship or finishing third or fourth in the standings.

Ryo Hirakawa, Team Impul

Ryo Hirakawa, Team Impul
14/19

Debut: 2013
Wins: 0
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: N/A

Hirakawa returns to Super Formula after two years as a replacement for Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough. Having won last year’s Super GT title, and played an integral role in G-Drive’s ELMS success, there’s a lot going for this Japanese hotshot.

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Kazuki Nakajima, Team Tom's

Kazuki Nakajima, Team Tom's
15/19

Debut: 2011
Wins: 9
Titles: 2
2017 championship position: 5th (22 points)

Nakajima may be best known for his F1 stint with Williams, but he’s also won two Super Formula titles in his home country. His last two campaigns have been somewhat underwhelming and a repeat of that won’t go down well with TOM’S, where he assumes team leader status this season.

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

James Rossiter, Team Tom's

James Rossiter, Team Tom's
16/19

Debut: 2013
Wins: 0
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: N/A

Rossiter has been called in as a replacement for Andre Lotterer, who ended his 15-year Super Formula stint in favour of a Formula E drive. While racing for a top level team like TOM’S brings pressure, his prior Super Formula experience and proven track record in Super GT suggests he is more than up for the task.

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Katsumasa Chiyo, B-Max Racing Team

Katsumasa Chiyo, B-Max Racing Team
17/19

Debut: 2018
Wins: N/A
Titles: N/A
2017 championship position: N/A

Chiyo may have a Blancpain GT title and a Bathurst 12 Hour victory in his CV, but he’s likely to be hamstrung by a team that failed to score a single point on its Super Formula debut last year. Moreover, Chiyo himself hasn’t driven a single-seater car in anger since 2015, meaning he has a big learning curve ahead of him.

Narain Karthikeyan, Nakajima Racing

Narain Karthikeyan, Nakajima Racing
18/19

Debut: 2011
Wins: 0
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 19th (0 points)

For the first time in his second Super Formula stint, Karthikeyan will have team stability. Combine that with a strong run in pre-season testing and one could reasonably expect him to score points on a regular basis.

Photo by: Takahiro Masuda

Takuya Izawa, Nakajima Racing

Takuya Izawa, Nakajima Racing
19/19

Debut: 2008
Wins: 3
Titles: 0
2017 championship position: 13th (5 points)

Izawa has been competing in Super Formula since 2008 but hasn’t won a race since his ill-fated GP2 detour in 2014. The 33-year-old will be hoping that a switch from Dandelion to Nakajima will arrest his declining fortunes in the series.

Photo by: Masahide Kamio
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