Go Sato Go!

29 06 2007

Reading the few entries here on my blog, one would get the impression that my favorite Formula One driver is Lewis Hamilton.

 True, I’m a fan of Lewis. I don’t get to watch the European-based feeder series such as F3 or Gp2 a lot, and don’t really pay attention to news bits about them. As such I only saw what Lewis Hamilton did in this season for my favorite championship-potential team, McLaren.

I also used to be a really big fan of Juan Pablo Montoya. Now that was a real firebrand on the track. Indy 500 winner and CART champion before moving to Formula One, he certainly showed what he was capable of when he was in the Williams team, showing Ralf how to race wheel-to-wheel with the latter’s brother, the great Schumi. Unfortunately things went downhill for JPM when he was paired up with Kimi at McLaren (a dream team pairing supposedly), and he left F1 mid-season and joined the American stock car series NASCAR, where he recently won his first event. WTG, JPM!

 That brings me to my favorite driver for the past seveal years. Bear in mind that I am fully aware that his hopes of winning the Formula One Driver’s Championship are quite dim, but still… Takuma Sato is my man.

Known as a crashaholic, Takuma Sato is a firebrand on the track. He’s not afraid to mix it up with everyone else, and is known to make bold overtaking moves. Granted a lot of times that those moves weren’t successful and often took him out of the race (and took others out too; who can forget that time Schumi slapped Sato on the helmet for taking both of them out of the race, haha!), he still is what I consider a real Formula One driver to be – a racer.

Schumi laying the smackdown on Taku:

Off-track, he’s also known to be an immensely likeable guy, if you believe F1 websites (I wouldn’t know as I haven’t met him, but he does seem to be always smiling). Plus he can be counted on to give excellent quotes like “very slippery oily stuffs” after he crashed into the barriers one time in Monaco.

But that’s besides the real reason why I like him. For me, it’s because Sato had an exceptional entry to motorsports: He started karting in 1996, when he was already 19. Most other Formula One drivers started way earlier than that (Schumi and JPM began when they were seven). He impressed Honda so much that they put him in racing school and started him out in real racing.

Sato then moved to Europe to race in the Junior Formula series there in 1998. He was reasonably successful there, and cutting a long story short, ended up in Formula One in 2002 joining the Jordan F1 team with Honda’s backing (the latter wanted a Japanese driver). He got into the points at his home race at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, much to the delight of the Japanese fans.

In 2003, he moved to Honda-backed British American Racing as a test-driver, but replaced Jacques Villeneuve at the last race of the season at Suzuka, finishing in 6th place.

He stayed there for until 2006, where he joined the Honda-powered Super Aguri team after being dropped by BAR. This team has had made an impact on the 2007 season, with Sato having four points and the team currently sitting at 8th in the Constructor’s Championship. Here’s a pic I took of him at the Malaysian Grand Prix this year:

Takuma Sato at Sepang 2007

 I certainly don’t entertain hopes of entering motorsports at my age, but it really gave me that nice warm fuzzy feeling that someone that I’m older only by a couple of weeks could get into Formula One at the ripe old age of 25. Go Sato Go!