Sato exclusive: All I can do now is wait 19 Nov 2008
When Super Aguri shut down following Aprils Spanish Grand Prix, Takuma Satos Formula One career hit the rocks. Not much changed until September, when Toro Rosso came knocking as they started considering replacements for Sebastian Vettel. Satos performance at that Jerez test was convincing enough to get him invited back to Barcelona this week, where he has not disappointed - fastest on day one, second fastest on day two. Will it be enough to get him on the grid for 2009? Only time will tell
Q: Takuma, its been a while since you drove a Formula One car. How did it feel to be back in an F1 cockpit again?
Takuma Sato: I am really happy. In the last six or seven months I havent really driven an F1 car, as the September test with Toro Rosso was overshadowed by rain and I could only do three hours in the morning. But although it was just a brief encounter it gave me a good idea of how the car behaves, so this one and a half days' testing for Toro Rosso, working with a very focused team, was very, very enjoyable for me.
Q: What have you been doing in the time since the Spanish Grand Prix, Super Aguris last race? Did you ever give up hope of landing another Formula One seat?
TS: I never gave up. I always hoped. I had no intention whatsoever to retire from F1 and my manager really worked hard to find me a way back into a cockpit and I really appreciate that Toro Rosso is giving me that opportunity. Now it is up to the team to decide. I am extremely excited with the test and hopefully I can find a way back into Formula One in 09.
Q: What was your take on the decline of Super Aguri? There was always hope that at the last minute a white knight would come to the rescue
TS: We always knew that we were in a difficult situation all the time, but I never expected that it would finish as it did. It was a sad moment, of course, as I had been with the team from day one. It was a small, but very competitive, team. The financial situation was always very critical as it is so hard to survive as a private team, but you have to accept the whole process, although its a real shame. It was a sad moment, but I see many ex-Aguri team members in the paddock now with other teams, which shows that we did a good job, otherwise other teams would not hire them.
Q: After your Jerez test for Toro Rosso in September you have been invited back again to compete for one of their seats, so you obviously left a positive impression
TS: Well, originally it was not planned for me to test for Toro Rosso in September, but the opportunity came up and as someone wanting to return to F1 the priority is to always be ready. My impression was that the chemistry was good - and that led to this test.
Q: The team has two cockpits - and three drivers competing for them. How do you see your chances in what seems to be a shoot-out?
TS: I dont know, really. But if I told you that Im not thinking about it all the time then it would be a lie. It is pressure as we all compete for an F1 cockpit, but all you can do really is to put in your best performance - maximize what you have to offer, including getting in close contact with the engineers, and simply try to get the best out of your chance. And I really hope that I will see them again. There is not much more I can do.
Q: You are the oldest and most experienced of the three candidates. Will that count in your favour?
TS: It is always a matter what kind of driver a team wants. If they are looking for someone with experience and good racing speed then I have given them more than a 100 percent. Now I have to wait for their decision.
Q: You have been testing a car that shocked the Formula One world this year with an unexpected win at Monza, helping Toro Rosso to sixth in the constructors championship ahead of Red Bull Racing, Williams and Honda. That surely means its the best F1 car youve driven
TS: It would be a little inappropriate for me to judge other cars, as I have to respect all the manufacturers and the teams, but obviously this is the best car I have ever driven - you could easily see that from the speed. I really enjoyed driving the STR3. Toro Rosso is not one of the big teams, but they made a huge leap forward performance-wise in the second half of the season and this test gave me a brief insight into how the team works and how it was possible for them to raise their game on such a big scale.
Q: After this test you are left on stand-by for next season. When will you know whether youve landed a Toro Rosso race seat?
TS: I dont think that Toro Rosso is in any rush to make a decision, so my guess would be at the end of the year, or even at the beginning of next year. All I can do now is wait, as I have done my job already.
Q: If you miss out, do you have a plan B for furthering your racing career?
TS: So far, to be honest, no. I was always looking for a possibility to return to F1, but if there is an absolute zero chance then I have to consider other racing categories. But until that happens I dont even want to think about any plan B.