Kazuki Nakajima: the driver debates

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, Silverstone, 2008, 470150

In the half-term driver rankings I picked Kazuki Nakajima out as the most impressive rookie of the season so far.

He has only started ten Grands Prix to date but has scored points on four occasions. Could he become the best Japanese driver since Takuma Sato?

At the end of last year I thought Toyota’s decision to move Nakajima into F1 with Williams, their engine customers, was too hasty. Nakajima was top rookie in GP2 in 2007 but hadn’t won a race and had made several rash mistakes.

His first two races seemed to agree with my assessment – he hit his pit crew on his debut for Williams at Interlagos last year, and in the first race of 2008 drove into Robert Kubica during a safety ar period.

Since then he’s cut down on the number of incidents and his potential is beginning to become clear. Even at Melbourne he hung in amid the carnage for a fine sixth.

And which Williams driver scored points in the downpour at Silverstone this weekend? Clue: it wasn’t Nico Rosberg. In fact, Nakajima was the only driver still nursing a set of extreme wets at the end, the sorry state of which prevented him from being to stop Jarno Trulli passing him for seventh on the final lap.

Nakajima is the son of Saturo Nakajima who was a competent F1 racer but owed much of his time in the sport to patrons Honda. The younger Nakajima is backed by Toyota, but the sparks of talent we’ve seen so far prove he’s not just in F1 for marketing reasons. That said, with the form he’s shown so far Toyota may want to bring him home from Williams sooner rather than later.

How do you rate Kazuki Nakajima?

More on Kazuki Nakajima: Kazuki Nakajima biography
Read more about Kazuki Nakajima at Maximum Motorsport

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20 comments on Kazuki Nakajima: the driver debates

  1. Rob W said on 11th July 2008, 8:02

    I’m going to make this quick.
    > Compare Nakajima Jnr to Piquet Jnr so far this year.
    > Compare Nakajima Jnr to Rosberg Jnr first years noteable achievements.
    > Compare all these ‘Jnr’s to their fathers, which one has matched or surpassed them yet?

    Answer: Kamakazee, amazingly is not in this guy’s vocabulary.

  2. ade said on 11th July 2008, 8:48

    People are quick to forget that despite running over his jack man at his first ever GP, Nakajima was setting some impressive lap times in the race and was running pretty high up in the race order.
    It’s hard to really judge him as his team-mate is hardly a beacon of speed and consistency, but he’s not done too badly this season, has he? I’d like to see him in a good car next year, just to see what he can do.

  3. Isn’t dad’s name Satoru in stead of Saturo?

  4. I haven’t seen any official confirmation, it was in news last week that Toyota will conform both Glock and Trulli for 2009. So Nakajima may have to wait for move back to Toyota.

    But as I said my comment on your driver rankings – I would rank Nakajima ahead of Rosberg after 1st half of 2008 season. He has been one of the positive surprises of the season.

  5. Sush said on 11th July 2008, 9:26

    I like him, his race craft is well… odd, Kubica odd, but thats a good thing.

    Also he’s not afraid of telling the truth, saying he’s scared of Monaco, street tracks in particular.

  6. Scott Joslin said on 11th July 2008, 9:44

    I like Nakajima, I think he has done a decent job, considering he had not built up a particularly impressive pedigree in GP2.

    Sure he makes mistakes, but these are small ones at the moment, and he seems to have genuine pace. I believe he would have been even more successful had he been in a Toyota this year.

    I think he will be Japan’s best F1 driver over the coming years.

    What will be interesting to see is if he can mature and develop into a consistent driver, something the previous Japanese drivers have not been able to achieve.

  7. Rohan said on 11th July 2008, 10:24

    I doubt anyone would have predicted before the season started that Kaz could be described as solid and consistent, but that is exactly what he has been and I’ve been impressed and pleasantly surprised by his performances thus far.

  8. Terry Fabulous said on 11th July 2008, 10:36

    Most impressively, he has been consistent. More so then Nico. Easily rookie of the year thus far.

  9. I said almost exactly that way back on November 7th 2007, Rohan. ;)

  10. michael counsell said on 11th July 2008, 11:29

    Admittedly I didn’t sse much of GP2 last year, but he was 4th and best rookie.

    He needs to qualify better but he still seems to be scoring points and has probably done enough already to keep his seat for next year.

  11. Jean said on 11th July 2008, 13:55

    He’s been impressive . I’ve been noticing his times , even going back to testing , and he is never far off Rosberg , who’s now in year three with the same team. It’s too early to tip him as a future champion , but given the right equipment , I think he has potential to win.

  12. Craig said on 11th July 2008, 13:59

    Nico is my favourite but Kaz is becoming more so. He seems to run pretty consistent and closing the gap to Nico, impressive in itself considering Nico has had a headstart with Williams.

  13. Dan M said on 11th July 2008, 14:35

    Not to nitpick but:

    “Could he become the best Japanese driver since Takuma Sato?”

    What other Japanese drivers came after Sato and before Takuma? I think he is by default the best Jap driver since Sato,if not better already.

  14. Sush said on 11th July 2008, 15:44

    Dan M –
    Yuje Ide
    Aguri (his nickname was Super Aguri, you might have heard about him?)

  15. Contraro said on 11th July 2008, 15:47

    Dan M – Have you forgotten the great Sakon Yamamoto?

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