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Exclusive Q&A with Takuma Sato 11 Aug 2006

Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, 5 August 2006

When Super Aguri made their last-minute debut at the start of the season, the paddock was eager to find out how the fledgling team would perform - not least because their line-up was led by one Takuma Sato, the first Japanese driver in years to show the promise of being able to win a Grand Prix. Now, 13 races down the line and with the team’s new and improved SA06 car at his disposal, we find out if Sato still believes he made the right choice…

Q: Japan is well-represented in Formula One racing with two Japanese manufacturer teams, one private team originating in Japan and one other team supplied with a Japanese engine. How do you feel this will this affect the popularity of Formula One racing in Japan?
Takuma Sato:
Massively. We have always had a very big Formula One following as you can see from the atmosphere at the Japanese Grand Prix, but with the increase in Japanese presence within the sport the passion for racing has accelerated.

Q: Considering this, what is being done to encourage a new generation of Japanese drivers?
That is a difficult question and I do not have a definite answer. Obviously, being Japanese myself, I would hope that we shall see more competitive, young Japanese drivers in Formula One in the future. But we must remember that Japan has a short history of motor racing. For me personally I think that it is great to have different nationalities in the sport, however when I am in the cockpit I don't think about my nationality. I do my best and I hope that other drivers do the same.

Q: So what are your career plans?
I am very happy being a part of Super Aguri. We have ambitious and exciting future plans and I enjoy the progress the team has made in its short life. On a personal level, I am also ambitious and want to win Grand Prix.

Q: You have been very enthusiastic about the new SA06. Is it going to help close the gap between Super Aguri and Midland?
Absolutely. I'm really delighted, and I know that this is a funny thing to say, but if we were very much quicker and beat several teams now we would have problems. We would obviously like a greatly improved performance, but this would not be the correct way of going about it as we may not know all the reasons why we are so quick. We predicted our improvement from the SA05 - we had very carefully studied the limited data we had and we predicted that we would be close to the Midland's. And we were! This fills me with confidence in the fact that the team knows exactly what they're doing and for our future development. The design team has done a great job without any testing, so this is almost like a perfect start for the SA06. Obviously, from purely a driver's point of view, I want to be more competitive, but considering our situation I am very happy.

Q: What in your opinion can be done to improve the car’s competitiveness and where are the weakest spots right this moment?
Without any proper testing, the German Grand Prix was essentially a shakedown for the SA06. The development and design teams have done a fantastic job with the car and I think that we are now going in the right direction. As we have said since the beginning of the season, everything has to be taken step-by-step. We had a specific Hungary aero, and will have a specific Turkey aero spec with new front suspension, so everything is going to be thoroughly studied and prepared. I think that we shall see a further step at every race and small improvements. If I have to describe a weakness, there isn't one main thing. You could easily say downforce, but that doesn't really describe it properly because everything is related. We have not been able to test, we do not have our own windtunnel, we are on a limited budget, our staff resource is low compared to the other teams, there are a lot of things. But the team is working extremely hard and we are happy with the debut of the SA06 and with our performance to date so we shall just keep building on that and hope that we can finish the season ahead of Midland team - that is our goal.