Kazuki Nakajima: the driver debates

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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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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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20 comments on “Kazuki Nakajima: the driver debates”

  1. 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. 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. 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
    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. 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
    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
    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. 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. 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. 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. Dan M –
    Yuje Ide
    Aguri (his nickname was Super Aguri, you might have heard about him?)

  15. Dan M – Have you forgotten the great Sakon Yamamoto?

  16. Just a thing to say: I have always considered Rosberg a good driver. Now Kazuki has the same points. Probably it means something: Rosberg is not that good, or Nakajima is not so bad… ;-)

  17. In the last 20 laps Rosberg was the faster in the average. He had a better pace then Nakajima, Trulli and Alonso. Finished just behind Kasuki, probaly the best Japan driver ever.

  18. I think Nakajima’s done gr8 this year, sure he will be prone to mistakes but he’s equal on points wiv Nico and if it wasn’t for the last lap of Silverstone he’d be ahead of Rosberg in the standings.

    The guy im prediciting will be better than Sato as already from a young age he looks a mature driver. However he’ll need to continue this form into the 2ndhalf of the season and do well in 2009 which will be a difficult year for him as he wont be considered a rookie and he wont want to slip into the midfield struggling.

  19. Clive is right. He’s been banging on about Kaz since last year!

    Nakajima seems to have everything required to be a regular in F1 for years to come. He races well, but seems disturbingly unable to get the car into Q3. Now this isn’t such a problem, with Williams’ form dropping off lately, but it is an issue he will have to rectify or risk going the way of DC and Wurz. While I think Nakajima is a good, potentially great F1 driver, too often he may end up only regaining places in the race that he should have had in qualifying. Too harsh, perhaps?

    Rosberg is becoming a Raikkonen ’08 spec enigma. How much poor form is he really showing, and how much is it down to the performance of the car and the always strange Williams pitwall strategies?

    It’ll be an interesting second half of the season to compare these two drivers as Williams puts more resources into this year’s program. I personally don’t expect to see much qualifying improvement from Nakajima, which could ultimately hurt his career. Let’s hope he figures it out, or F1 changes the format to help these poor one-lappers.

  20. Just recently I was wondering if I was the only fan who thought Kaz was outpacing his much better-known teammate. Rosberg has some consistency and great promise, but aside form the podium in week 1, I think Kaz has been far ahead of him this season.

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