Sauber test for Honda junior Matsushita

2017 F1 season

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Sauber has confirmed Honda-backed driver Nobuharu Matsushita will test for them next week at the Hungaroring.

The 23-year-old has spent the last three years racing in Formula Two (previously GP2), taking a single win in each campaign. He won the Japanese Formula Three title in 2014 and has been supported by Honda since 2012.

Matsushita “deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula One car,” said Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur, who was previously the team principal of Matsushita’s F2 squad ART.

“Ever since his debut in Formula Two with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year.”

Matsushita will drive the team’s C36 on the second day of the test. His F2 rival Gustav Malja will drive on day one. Matsushita is seventh in the F2 standings, four places ahead of Malja.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula One,” said Matsushita. “Since then my dream was to become a Formula One driver.”

“I am very excited about my first Formula One test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me.”

Sauber has announced a deal to use Honda engines from next season. However some confusion surrounds the arrangement following the departure of previous Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

Matsushita has 13 FIA F1 superlicence points, Malja is on three.

Other Formula Two drivers in action at the test following next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix are championship leader Charles Leclerc, who will drive for Ferrari, and Nicholas Latifi, who will be in a Renault.

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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 “Sauber test for Honda junior Matsushita”

  1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    24th July 2017, 10:16

    I think we can call this a confirmation of a Sauber Honda 2018 partnership. Or at least as close to a confirmation as possible, without calling it a confirmation.

    1. That’s certainly what it looks like, or not. This is F1 after all.

    2. Not too sure about that. But it certainly seems that Honda and the team are at least talking about signing that deal right now and are not actively chasing a different route.

      Also, I think Vasseur knowing Nobuharu will have helped (and maybe Honda is helping a bit towards the budget to have this good will drive come about?)

  2. Matsushita seems to be a very popular guy in F2. When he won a sprint race in May (Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona) his ex-team mates came to celebrate with him. Really nice to see.
    On the other hand, Leclerc is clearly the benchmark in F2, even if he sometimes stumbles (Monaco for example).

    1. He wasn’t so popular in Baku 2016 when he messed up after the sc restart, he was also banned 1 race after that incident.

  3. Honda affiliated driver testing for a Honda affiliated team. How can he even test with only 13 superlicense points? Are they considering him for a race seat next year? Again, how can he race without enough superlicense points???

    1. @cavman99 I doubt Matsushita will ever make it into F1 (thanks to the points system). Looks like PR to me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him running the tests again at Suzuka.

    2. I guess there is a belief he will finish the season within the first 4 places of the European F2 racing series. Currently he is running 7th. If he was running closer to the top, e.g first, second, or third, I’d have more confidence that he’d attain the necessary points, but being 7th leaves me slightly pessimistic.
      I think he is going to have to get some extra coaching, just like Lance Stroll did, if he wants to finish the season in the top 4 places.

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