Naoki Yamamoto

Naoki Yamamoto to make F1 debut in practice on Friday

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Two-times Japanese Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto will make his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso this weekend.

The 31-year-old will replace Pierre Gasly in the first practice session at Suzuka.

Yamamoto has had a highly successful career in his home country. He won the 2013 Super Formula title in a points tie with Andre Lotterer and beat Nick Cassidy to the title again last year by a single point.

He also shared championship honours in the Super GT series with team mate Jenson Button. The 2009 world champion lavished praise on Yamamoto, saying he deserved a change to race in F1.

Yamamoto’s chance has come about through Honda, who powered him to his Super Formula and GT successes.

“We are pleased that Japanese fans will now get the opportunity to see Yamamoto, a Honda supported Japanese driver at the wheel of a current F1 car at our own Suzuka circuit, as part of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend,” said Honda’s chief officer for brand and communications Katsuhide Moriyama.

“I would like to thank Toro Rosso and Red Bull for giving Yamamoto this great opportunity. We hope Naoki makes the most of this opportunity, that he learns from it and that it helps him as a racing driver. We also hope that seeing Yamamoto on track, will serve as an inspiration to young Japanese drivers, so that in the near future, we can once again have Japanese drivers competing in Formula 1.”

Yamamoto thanked Honda and its two F1 teams for the support they have given him.

“I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator,” he said. “My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend.

“On a personal note, I want to enjoy the experience of driving an F1 car as much as possible and I will be trying my very best to get the most out of it. It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”

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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 “Naoki Yamamoto to make F1 debut in practice on Friday”

  1. This is a good move by Honda/Red Bull/Toro Rosso. After Button heaped praise on Yamamoto a few seasons back I’ve been very keen to see what he could do in an F1 car.

    1. Yep, will be interesting @geemac Of course, it might be that he needs some time to get up to speed, and the predicted weather might not help, so not getting my hopes for great things up too much, but it will still be interesting. And congrats to him too!

      1. @bosyber We’re four days away from FP1, though, so too early to read a lot into the weather-forecasts, but nevertheless, his outing is indeed going to be interesting.

  2. Thus begins the exit of Pierre Gasly / Kvyat.

    It would be a failure of Helmut if he starts 2020 with 2 Red Bull rejects in Toro Rosso.

    1. nonsense. this Driver is too old. its just a publicity stunt

      1. @Ronny Too old for Toro Rosso, yes, although, Hartley debuted there in his late-20s, but still.

      2. Wow, if 31 is too old Kimi Raikkonen will be shaking in his loafers…

        1. @geemac, I think it is more in the sense that 31 is relatively late to be making a debut into F1, as not many drivers in their early 30s have debuted into the sport for some time now.

          1. Damon Hill was one…

          2. @gpfacts, whilst it is true that Hill did, that was also 27 years ago – and, even then, I believe that Hill was considered to be an exception to the norm and on the older side compared to other drivers around that time, who mostly debuted in their early to mid 20s. It’s not to say it is impossible, but it would definitely be unusual.

      3. I fail to understand the obsession with age! Honestly, what’s the point. Rarely do drivers get more than a 2 or 3 year deal anyway. What difference does it make how old they are, as long as they perform? If a 40 year old turned up and blew everyone away, why on earth would they not sign him? Ridiculous!

        1. @nick101
          Because a 40 year old has never “turned up and blew everyone away!”, which proves the point. F1 is about peak performance. And peak performance at age 40 doesn’t happen.

          Keep getting mad about it tho, that surely helps prove your point!

  3. Naoki Yamamoto to make F1 debut in practice on Friday

    Granted the race weekend is not washed away by a typhoon…

    1. Super typhoon now. Looks scary. Everyone may need full downforce to get through the weekend, even the freight trucks.
      Might have lessened by Sunday but it looks like rain and wind all weekend.

  4. Twenty-one years of age in Japan is the equivalent to 28 in the West.

    1. As it 31. Sheesh …

      1. Oh for crying out loud! Keith, please put a delete button in there before someone takes away my keyboard.

  5. Would be nice to a top line Japanese driver in F1. It’s a bit of a shame that a car mad country like Japan hasn’t produced a race winning driver in all its history.

  6. Cristiano Ferreira
    8th October 2019, 4:57

    Even if he does well in FP1 I doubt some team will be interested in him. MAYBE (and its a big MAYBE) Toro Rosso can pick him if they decide that Gasly or Kvyat are no longer needed, but that’s almost impossible to happen.

    1. This isn’t about finding him a drive, this is about national promotion. This is Japan flexing its muscles at its home GP.

      Welcome to formula1 though!

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