Yamamoto and Makino set for Super Formula seat swap
Honda drivers Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino appear on course to swap Super Formula seats for the 2021 season.
Yamamoto made an unexpected switch from Dandelion Racing, with which he scored his third series title last year, to fellow Honda-powered outfit Nakajima Racing for the so-called ‘rookie test’ that followed the season finale at Fuji Speedway last month.
Motorsport.com understands that move is likely to be a permanent one, and that Makino is poised to move in the opposite direction to Dandelion, where he’ll join Nirei Fukuzumi.
Yamamoto will therefore bid to win the Super Formula title with a third different team this year, which would be an unprecedented feat in the series’ modern era, with last year’s top rookie Toshiki Oyu staying on as his teammate.
Dandelion focused solely on running Fukuzumi in the post-season test, as Makino was forced to sit out the final round and the test after contracting meningitis.
Also running only one car during the test was Mugen, which had just Tomoki Nojiri in action as the Red Bull-liveried #15 car did not participate.
It’s understood that Mugen will remain a two-car effort in 2021 and that its tie-up with Red Bull will continue, but with a second driver alongside Nojiri yet to be determined.
Ukyo Sasahara, TEAM MUGEN
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Since 2017, the #15 car has essentially been under the control of the Red Bull Junior Team, and was set to be driven last year by Juri Vips until travel restrictions imposed by Japan in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic forced a change of plans.
Given foreigners without existing visas currently cannot enter Japan, it’s almost certain that the Red Bull-liveried Mugen car will be piloted by a Japanese driver, outside of the RBJT.
It’s unclear if Ukyo Sasahara is a candidate to stay on at Mugen after replacing Vips last year. The former Asian Formula 3 champion did not participate in post-season testing.
Elsewhere in the Honda stable, Tatiana Calderon has made clear her ambitions to remain at the one-car Drago Corse team, but the situation for B-Max Racing is less clear, with neither Nobuharu Matsushita nor Charles Milesi likely to remain.
Matsushita, who is set to join the Nissan SUPER GT roster in 2021, had previously suggested a return was unlikely, while Milesi is leaving Japan to focus on sportscar racing in Europe, either in the European Le Mans Series or FIA World Endurance Championship.
Enaam Ahmed tested for B-Max at Fuji and is known to have been weighing up a return to the Japanese scene after his All-Japan F3 campaign in 2019. But any hopes of the British driver landing one of B-Max’s two cockpits could be complicated by travel restrictions.
Teppei Natori has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for a drive with the team after an abortive attempt at making his Super Formula debut last year at Motegi. The ex-FIA F3 driver placed fourth in Super Formula Lights last year.
Honda is set to announces its drivers for both Super Formula and SUPER GT next Friday.
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