Ex-F1 drivers shine in Super Formula at Suzuka

Weekend Racing Wrap

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Japanese Super Formula cars offer near-F1 levels of performance so it’s no surprise former grand prix drivers continue to shine in the category. The opening round of the 2015 championship at Suzuka was won by a driver who appeared on the F1 grid last year.

Also in this weekend’s racing wrap we have IndyCar from Long Beach, World and British Touring Cars, NASCAR, and the United SportsCar Championship.

Super Formula

Round 1 – Suzuka

The Super Formula Championship began with another grid containing talent that wouldn’t look out of place in the Formula One paddock, with Honda and Toyota powered cars that have developed a reputation for being one of fastest outside of F1. Past champions include Ralf Schumacher, Pedro de la Rosa and Kazuki Nakajima.

Victory in the opening round of this year’s championship went to one-off 2014 F1 racer Andre Lotterer, who made a superb start along with TOM’s team mate Nakajima. Lotterer took the lead from the slow-starting pole sitter Naoki Yamamoto and never lost it.

Nakajima backed his team mate up in second, while Yamamoto’s engine expired on the final lap. That handed third place to another former F1 driver, Narain Karthikeyan.

Japan’s most recent F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi made his debut in the category, finishing in ninth place.


Round 4 – Long Beach

Helio Castroneves led away from pole at the start, while Scott Dixon passed Juan Pablo Montoya to move into second. When Castroneves was held in the pits by a member of his pit crew to narrowly avoid a collision with Tony Kanaan, Dixon slipped through into a lead he only relinquished at pitstops. Castroneves held on to second ahead of Montoya, who retains the lead of the Championship.

Meanwhile reigning Champion Will Power endured a difficult weekend, going out in the first part of Qualifying after being caught out by a red flag, and then suffering a brief engine stall early in the race which dropped him a lap down.

World Touring Car Championship

Round 2 – Marrakech


Citroen dominated once more in the WTCC, with Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller sharing the two wins, despite the latter having a grid penalty for the opening race. With that in mind however, Muller strategically qualified 10th, giving himself pole for race two.

Lopez eased to victory in race one ahead of Ma Qing Hua and Sebastian Loeb, with the latter hounded for a large portion of the race by his own team, with Mehdi Bennani behind the wheel, despite having started ahead.

Meanwhile in race two, Muller took his first win of the season ahead of Loeb, with the two keeping nose to tail for the entire race. Despite starting tenth on Marrakech’s narrow streets, Lopez recovered to third to retain his championship lead.


Round 8 – Bristol

Matt Kenseth won a rain-delayed race at Bristol. Championship leader Kevin Harvick went out in a collision with David Ragan.

United SportsCar Championship

Round 3 – Long Beach

Ricky and Jordan Taylor won the USCC Long Beach event for their father’s Chevrolet team, after starting from the front. Following the first stint, they fell behind the Ganassi Ford DP of Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, but they got back ahead after Jordan dived inside Joey Hand at the first corner.

For the remaining 40 minutes Hand couldn’t bridge the gap, and Taylor Racing won by three seconds. The GTLM class saw the Risi Ferrari in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer take the lead until after the first stops, when the BMW of Dirk Werner and Bill Auberlen recovered from fourth to get past Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in the Corvette, the sister BMW of Lucas Luhr and John Edwards.

With 30 minutes remaining, eight seconds separated Werner and Kaffer, but with only 10 minutes left on the clock, Werner made the winning move, getting past Kaffer to take the class victory. The next round for the USCC is at Laguna Seca in May, when the leading Prototypes and GTLM entries will be joined once again by the GTD and Prototype Challenge cars.

British Touring Car Championship

Round 2 – Donington Park

Team BMR tea mmates Jason Plato and Colin Turkington won the opening two races at Donington Park, before Matt Neal claimed the reverse grid victory once more to retain the Championship lead following the second round.

Turkington took pole ahead of Gordon Shedden and Plato, who had been many people’s favourite due to his low Championship position following Brands Hatch and subsequent lack of ballast.

He made this count in the first lap however, easing past both men ahead on the opening lap before leading to the end, with Turkington and Shedden swapping positions before the flag.

Fastest laps now dictate the grid for race two, meaning Shedden started on pole, but it was Turkington who dominated from second, winning ahead of Matt Neal and a jubilant Adam Morgan.

The reverse grid in race three promoted rookie Josh Cook to pole position, who battled for a large portion of the race with Aron Smith before an incident ruined both their chances. An enthralling race saw Neal win ahead of Andrew Jordon with his first podium for MG, and Shedden taking third.

The BTCC has not yet uploaded video of this round

Round 1 – Brands Hatch

The races above were featured previously in Weekend Racing Wrap but footage was not available at the time.

Over to you

Next weekend we have round four of the IndyCar series, and also of the World Rally Championship, which restarts after a few weeks break. The World Rallycross Championship and Formula Renault 3.5 kick off while Euroformula Open head to their second round at Paul Ricard and NASCAR race yet again.

Will you be watching any of these races? And what did you watch last weekend? Have your say in the comments.

Thanks to @Mathers for contributing to this article.

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42 comments on “Ex-F1 drivers shine in Super Formula at Suzuka”

  1. I would so much love F1 to make a return to Brands Hatch. After all, with how quiet and “eco-friendly’ they are now, I don’t see the wildlife being an obstacle for it. I do appreciate Silverstone, it’s a great circuit, but in my view, Brands Hatch is so much thrill to drive. Would not probably pass the F1 safety requirements though. Nonetheless, it is such an amazng circuit let me just dream of it for a bit =)

    Re Super Formula. Well done to Andre. Didn’t know he’s that busy. And don’t you guys think the cars look great? Sort of a refined 2004-05 look.

    1. Yeah, Brands Hatch is probably one of the best circuits in the whole world. And I’m serious. Paddock Hill, Sheene’s (ex-Dingle Dell), Clearways, the Surtees-McLaren-Clearways combination on the Indy Circuit, these are up there with the best corners of all.

      Only the Isle of Man TT, the Nordschleife and Mount Panorama lives up to Brands Hatch (and possibly Watkins Glen). It’s good to know F1 raced three out of these tracks and that we can still catch amazing races of some categories at these places.

    2. A new GP of Europe is long overdue.

    3. @njoydesign Brands Hatch is an FIA grade two circuit – tracks have to be grade one to hold F1 races. There is a ‘1T’ designation which allows sub-grade one tracks to hold F1 tests, but Brands Hatch isn’t at that level. So in order for it to hold an F1 race a huge amount of work would have to be done.

      I would hazard a guess that every corner on Brands Hatch would be beyond or at least very close to the limit of what’s deemed acceptable run-off for an F1 car. Lots of quick corners, not much space for them to go off if they get it wrong.

      1. @keithcollantine
        Thanks for chiming in Keith. You’re totally right. However, these imperfections is what make it so thrilling. A small mistake can cost you the race. And I think this is precisely what makes it so great. All these new tracks, and new safety requirements make it more sterile and take away a big chunk of that thrill. And it is very likely that if BH was redone to comply with those requirements, it might as well lose a big part of its magic, because it takes away this psychological pressure. We won’t find out anyways, because noone is going to invest into it in the current financial climate and with the money Bernie charges a circuit. So yeah, as I said, I was just dreaming there for a bit) Santa doesn’t exist too, yet we all act like he does once a year.

        And I miss Imola. Another favourite of mine.

        1. A mistake can also cost you your life.

          1. Putting your foot wrong when walking down the stairs can cost you your life too. Doesn’t stop you from using the stairways. A bike stunt can cost you your life, yet there are people doing it professionally. Stop thinking of the drivers as some babies who can’t take care of themselves or who can’t decide what’s worth the risk and what’s not. A mistake in Monaco can cost your life just as well, yet we have it on the calendar.

      2. I agree totally that it is great track with not much run off….but hang on, F1 also races at Monaco…..

  2. What Kobayashi, the greatest F1 driver of all time, only managed 9th?

    1. When reading “The opening round of the 2015 championship at Suzuka was won by a driver who appeared on the F1 grid last year.” I immediately thought of Kobayashi haha!

      Is he in a good team this season?

      1. pxcmerc (@)
        21st April 2015, 8:21

        Lotterer is probably better than Kamui, but Lotterer has a lot more wins in formula Nippon/SuperGT than Kamui, so it’s hardly surprising.

  3. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
    20th April 2015, 12:24

    Those Super Formula cars look good, perhaps with the exception of the awkward looking engine fin. I like the wings though, simple, but don’t look too plain and lower category like. If F1 wants to reduce dirty air surely this has to be a starting point, reduce again the elements on the wings.

  4. I could be missing something here, but why is GP2 not featured?
    Two great races this weekend, with a phenomenal win by Vandoorne on Saturday, Haryanto’s first on Sunday, and most of the obvious title contenders (Marciello, Lynn, Gasly and Pic) leaving Bahrain without even a single point.

    1. @mattds Championships which don’t put out highlights videos for their races aren’t featured. Obviously with some series there’s a bit of a delay, e.g. BTCC and USC, but we’re still fine-tuning the concept a bit with this feature.

      1. @keithcollantine thanks for the explanation, I understand the reasoning. And please don’t get me wrong, I really like this feature!
        Being a Belgian I was really psyched after this racing weekend so I just wondered, that’s all.

    2. @mattds / @keithcollantine We Belgians finally have a superstar and now he’s not even featuring on F1Fanatic.

      1. @xtwl Glad to see I’m not the only one with this feeling. However I understand Keith position. Difficult to compute something on everything that went on the weekend and easier/quicker to use highlights available, in particular for such new concept.

        But as GP2 is one of the main feeder to F1, it would be quite logical to have it appears somewhere here.

        1. @jeanrien I wasn’t really saying it had to be here more like a jokeish way being proud of Vandoorne. I like the wrap up but each of these series have their own sites which you can easily follow…

      2. @xtwl well, let’s hope next year he’ll feature every week on F1F for being on the F1 grid every week :)

    3. As an Indonesian, I’m happy to see Haryanto finally win. Darn it, where’s the highlight video…

  5. I love Formula Super!! How close was that racing at suzuka! I loved the fact that they had lights on the roll hoops so you can see white solid light when battery was charged, flashing white when being used, and red when battery is empty. The fans at the circuit can tell when KERS is actually being used…. Novel concept to think about the fans who may not be near a screen. The other thing I loved was that the cars are actually quite quick, I wonder if they’d beat a GP2?

    1. The other thing I loved was that the cars are actually quite quick, I wonder if they’d beat a GP2?

      Up above Keith linked to a performance comparison he did last year: https://www.racefans.net/2015/01/23/fast-formula-one-top-championships-compared/

      As you can see, there isn’t much basis to compare, but in Japan the Super Formula cars are quite a bit closer to F1 cars than the GP2 cars can average where they share the track with F1.
      So yes, they’d probably beat GP2 cars, and with a margin.

    2. Thanks, I was wondering what those lights were for.

    3. I like those lights very much. But they could be used for something 1’000’000 times cooler!
      They should indicate when the driver presses the brakes with one colour and with another when he presses the gas pedal.

      How about that?
      It would give as a unique close-up feel of what the drivers are doing. Probably would help clarify many controversial situations as well.

  6. What do the flashing LED lights on the Super Formula car airboxes signify. I initially thought it might let TV viewers know a driver was using a push-to-pass or something like that. But they seemed to be flashing most of every lap it seemed?

  7. MotoGP was spectacular yesterday. A fine win by Rossi again.

    Lopez will walk through another championship… I don’t get that series, short races, small field, just 1 team dominating it all… and they had all morning to race, but they decide to start just as the F1 race is taking place? Not clever…

    1. Lopez will walk through another championship… I don’t get that series, short races, small field, just 1 team dominating it all…

      @fer-no65 – Replace Lopez by Hamilton and you almost get F1.

      1. @xtwl yeah but at least Mercedes doesn’t show up with 5 cars ! there are just 3 manufacturers there… and some old Cruzes.

        For a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, as the others say, it’s really not worth that title.

    2. it is a stupid series not worth of the title “WORLD TOURING” car championship. there are so many better touring car series in the world with more interesting cars and racing – WEC GT classes, V8 supercars, DTM, blancplain, even the little known south american series. WTCC is just lucky it has the “world tourning” monicker, having Loeb in the series in the last 2 years has helped it remain in the news, otherwise it is an aboslute heap of crap racing series that does not deserve “world title” status as all.

      1. WTCC (2005-2013).
        I wouldn’t be surprised if WTCC is folded again.

    3. And I feel sorry with Tom Coronel, he even didn’t take any single laps.
      I miss old WTCC (2005-2010)

  8. http://youtu.be/vzbszaojVFM

    These look like highlights of the gp2 race…

    1. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      20th April 2015, 17:36

      @yoshif8tures they are not official though, Keith won’t run user ripped clips for his features.

      1. Oh alright then

  9. it is incredible the super formula cars are so fast (nearly f1 fast) with 2 litre 4 cyl engines. and the cars are quite heavy. in their current state, they could keep up with 3l v10 f1 cars which weighed less in the late 90s. how does that work? is the aero of the super formula as good as current f1 cars?? they are not far off in lap time, but have far less power

    1. KERS?

    2. I have to say, watching the footage, those cars look quicker around corners than F1 cars. The TV angles were good as well, which helps to make them look faster, but still… I think that the main reason why F1 cars are faster than Super Formula cars are the more powerful engines (power units) in F1. The aero will certainly be less complex on the Super Formula cars (just compare the front wing designs), but still… I think they probably have slightly better aero overall than current F1 cars, due to fewer regulatory restrictions limiting downforce (mainly the wider front/rear wings and higher front noses I’d imagine. Big problem with the current short front wings in F1 is that it’s very difficult to direct airflow around the wheels, which has a big effect on downforce).

  10. I watched the Indy race at NOLA last weekend and enjoyed it even with all the caution running. Long Beach was desperately boring though. Despite close racing there were so few overtakes. Felt like Monaco.

  11. @keithcollantine FYI the Donington BTCC races can be found here (I had a bit of a rummage around the ‘net–strange that they aren’t listed on ITV Player): http://www.itv.com/btcc/races#

  12. Great to see Kart back on the podium. Last year wasn’t easy with the injury which troubled him all year… Hopefully he can get a good run this year.

  13. I went to my first ever Indy Car race at Long Beach yesterday. Just my luck that it was pretty uneventful by usual Long Beach standards, but never the less, a great day out that I would recommend. Some loud engines, some close racing even if few overtakes and a really interesting time in the paddock (including sneaking onto the back of a VIP tour of the Ganassi garage). I met my local lad Jack Hawskworth and team mate Takuma Sato, and got a photo with Mario Andretti. I suppose being at the track is more about the experience, so I’m still glad I got to go.

    Indy Lights had a close battle for the lead and the Perilli World Challenge was farcical in the number of crashes and safety cars, yet the atmosphere at the track actually made this entertaining, with some fun banter with the marshals.

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