After ending 2006 strongly with Takuma Sato’s fine drive in Interlagos, Super Aguri are going into 2007 on the back foot after their new car failed crash tests. It may not even be ready for the first race.
There are some reasons to be cheerful, though.
Super Aguri are getting serious.
Last year they compromised their driver line-up for commercial reasons, running an all-Japanese squad featuring two drivers (Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto) who were not ready for F1.
Now they’ve given a seat to Anthony Davidson – a popular and talented test driver who’s been crying out to go racing.
The car may have suffered an embarrassing setback – but as it’s likely to be closely based on a Honda design they will surely be in a stronger position than last year, when they raced a car based on a four year-old Arrows.
So having propped up the gird for most of 2006 they can expect to do much better in 2007 – perhaps even venturing into the points on the days when the retirement rate is high.
For that they will need to depend on their drivers not to do anything foolish. Sato made the odd rash move last year and it was not uncommon to see one of the Super Aguris come to grief in the opening laps of a race. Worst of all, he crashed out in Indianapolis on one of those rare days when points were there for the taking.
With Davidson alongside him, Sato will be under far greater pressure this year, and it should serve as a good test of whether he really deserves a place in F1.
Thanks to the cult status of boss Aguri Suzuki (the first Japanese driver to finish on the podium – at his home race, no less – in 1990) the team enjoy gigantic support in Japan.
Hopefully by that late stage in the season, when the F1 teams arrive at Fuji for the first time in three decades, we’ll have some idea about the long-term future of the outfit. Do Honda intend to keep them going long-term? Or are they just a quick fix to keep a Japanese Honda driver in F1 until such a time as they find another one quick enough to deserve a place in the Honda team?
Surely the team can’t have a great shelf life if its sole purpose is to be a vehicle (excuse the pun) for Sato?
The team has potential, and in a few months time could be anywhere from the back of the pack to the upper midfield.