The future of Super Aguri

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Plucky underdogs Super Aguri had a reasonable year in 2007, scoring their first ever points and worrying the factory Honda team on several occasions.

But I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for this team that basically exists just to give one driver – Takuma Sato – a seat in Formula 1. Are they in it for the long term?

Super Aguri was formed in time for the 2006 season because Honda were dropping Sato but, owing to public pressure in Japan where Sato is very popular – needed to keep him in F1 somehow. The solution was to set up a new team run by Aguri Suzuki to run Sato.

The team is deeply Japanese, has lots of Japanese support and all its major sponsors are Japanese. For much of 2006 it ran an all-Japanese squad, except after the FIA forced the expulsion of Yuji Ide and Franck Montagny stepped in as a replacement (before being dropped for Sakon Yamamoto).

This year Briton Anthony Davidson took the second seat alongside Sato. But the team remained focused on its Japanese lead driver as James Roberts described in a recent article for F1 Racing:

On some race weekends, so obvious was the Super Aguri management’s desire to see Taku succeed that Ant was more or less left to get on with it on his own. It would be wrong to describe him as a spare part, but, even when he was spearheading the team’s race efforts from a performance point of view, he was always viewed as their number-two son.

Sato is expected to remain their lead driver next year, but Davidson’s future is unclear. At any rate, how long can a team built around the career and popularity of Takuma Sato last?

Sato has seldom had a rival for his affections in Japan – Yamamoto has only raced for two half-seasons – but that will change in 2008 as Kazuki Nakajima joins Williams. The Toyota-backed team are likely to be more competitive than Super Aguri, and although the jury’s still out on Nakajima he was the top rookie in GP2 this year.

Plus, it’s one thing to build the long-term future of a team around a Michael Schumacher or Fernando Alonso – or even a Lewis Hamilton. But it’s quite another to do so with Takuma Sato, who at best has only occasionally shown flashes of speed.

Formula 1 teams are not cheap to run and it’s doubtful that the popularity of Sato alone can keep Super Aguri going. It has already had to shed 30 jobs from its Leafield site this year and one sponsor failed to pay up during 2007. It will not be able to use a customer chassis in 2008 unless it is allowed to repeat the same legal trick that allowed it to run old Honda RA106s this year.

It seems Super Aguri has a future as long as Sato’s popularity can sustain it. But can even that last for very long?

Photos: GEPA / Franz Pammer | GEPA / Bildagentaur Kraeling

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “The future of Super Aguri”

  1. An F1 team supported SOLELY for Taku Sato? I like Sato, a LOT, he’s improving from the old B.A.R. days, he’s a superb F1 personality, he needs an F1 seat but…….Super Aguri is in it SOLELY for Sato is a bit of a stretch. And I question if Davisdon is going to get the boot, he may have been a gift from Honda but he’s qualified well (as well as the car will permit) he races well (when in the clear) and replacing him just to have a Jap name in his seat is a folly! Super Aguri will survive unless Williams and Co manage to screw the customer teams. And who looses in that situation…..only the F1 ‘fans’.

  2. I think the threat to Davidson is not coming from the nationality policy of the team. The threat is coming from financial situation… The team needs a sponsor or investor or buyer or a pay driver. Investor or buyer may push for his own driver to get the seat. Pay driver – well that probably would not be Davidson …

    And yes, the team was set up to keep Sato in F1 … That might not be 100% the case any more, but that was the case during the 2005/2006 winter …

  3. Things could change a lot for this team if there is any truth to rumors of Alonso joining Button and Brawn at Honda-with Rubens shifting over to Super Aguri. If things get straightened out with the Honda team, they could use Aguri more effectively. Watch Ross B. figure out a clever way to do this.

  4. i very much doubt that rubens would want to spend another day in the ’07 honda! let alone another season!
    the team is solely for sato, always has been.
    annoying thing is, all the decent drivers who cant get a drive mainly for finacial reasons yet he gets given a seat simply cos of his nationality!
    even worse is, he’s no good!
    i could understand if he was a talent, but he’s not.
    thats the diff between his situation and having a schu or alonso have a team built around him!

  5. Methinks Ross Brawn, being Ross Brawn, will find a clever use for Super Aguri. Keeping that team alive is, even post-Sato, still in Honda’s best interests. Just recently, they used Super Aguri to test 3 of their young drivers. I’m pretty sure that if any of them had F1 potential, they would need to do a year first with Super Aguri before being considered for the factory team.

  6. Both “Super” Aguri and STR are cheats imo, and the sooner they leave the better.

  7. yes super aguri was set up to keep Sato in F1 after widespread critisismn in Japan and it would make sound economic sense forHonda to use them as a feeder/trial team to try out new parts before they are put on to the main honda car – but development of new technology driven by the manufacturers is being hampered by the deadly twins – and if they dont want it wont be – I think that there is nothing wrong in any team having a “A” and “B” team it would get rid of the customers car problem and they would be awarded points for “B” team constructors championship alongside the existing constuctors points – they race more than 2 categories at the like of le mans so wheres the problem – and think of the passing opportunties – why not try that bernie/max

  8. Some details of the scale of Super Aguri’s troubles emerged today. Daniele Audetto put the sum lost because of SS United at $30m and a further $10m coming from Giedo van der Garde’s sponsors went unrealised because he ended up driving for Spyker.

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