Naoki Yamamoto, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 2019

Yamamoto “doesn’t fit the criteria” for race seat – Horner

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner praised Naoki Yamamoto’s practice run for Toro Rosso but played down the possibility he could gain a race seat in Formula 1.

Yamamoto, 31, is the reigning champion in Japan’s Super Formula and Super GT championships. He won the latter jointly with 2009 F1 champion Jenson Button, who described Yamamoto as an F1-grade talent.

In his first F1 run for Toro Rosso today Yamamoto lapped Suzuka in 1’32.018. This was within a tenth of a second of regular driver Daniil Kvyat’s best time, though Kvyat ran on medium tyres at the end of the session while Yamamoto was on softs.

“I don’t know the exact ins and outs of their run plans,” Horner told Sky, “but you’d have to say it’s pretty usual that they run a standard setting across the two cars. So he’s done a pretty decent job there.”

Yamamoto has extensive track experience at Suzuka, where he has won five Super Formula races en route to his two championship victories since 2013.

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“He’s done a very good job for his first session here in a Formula 1 car,” Horner added, “I think he acquitted himself very well.

Naoki Yamamoto, Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 2019
“He’s a really good guy, really fast, really talented”
“It’s a circuit he knows extremely well, he’s had a very successful career racing over here with Jenson in the GTs. So he doesn’t fit the criteria at the moment but he’s certainly worth giving a run and have a look at today.”

Pierre Gasly, who raced against Yamamoto in Super Formula and relinquished his car to him this morning, said he rated Yamamoto highly.

“He actually I apologised to be in my car! There is no big deal about it, it was already planned at the beginning of the year.

“I said just enjoy every single lap because I know Naoki, he’s a really good guy, really fast, really talented. He knows Suzuka more than anyone else I think on the planet.

“It’s a dream to drive this kind of car so I just said enjoy every single lap you have out on track. I gave him a few tips because for sure compared to Super Formula tyres, car behaviour is different. He’s been in this sim and there were a couple of things he found really different to the Super Formula.”

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17 comments on “Yamamoto “doesn’t fit the criteria” for race seat – Horner”

  1. easy to tell that naoki could do f1 just fine. hard to put a lap with the traffic not to mention you don’t get many chances to take the best out of the tyres.

  2. he doesn’t fit the criteria

    Wouldn’t have taken Horner to be ageist, but there it is – won’t trust any driver over 30.

    1. @jimmi-cynic That was a strange comment from Horner. Or does he mean Yamamoto hasn’t come up through the Red BUll junior program?

      1. @tomcat173: seems like he’s saying Yamamoto is too old to get into the Red Bull junior program. And there’s no RBR senior program. Helmut already has that job. ;-)

        1. Don’t give Mr Storey ideas, or he’ll be back with Silverfox energy drink aimed at the older gentlemen :-)

          1. Horner just might be a little bothered he had to give up a seat for a very important FP with no FP3 and maybe no quali. Probably had to accommodate Honda’s request last year to give them a FP or more in Suzuka for one of there drivers.

            Could be a sly way of telling Honda he will not be getting a ride with them any time soon but thank yo for the motors.

        2. @jimmi-cynic Where does Horner point out his age such that he is being ageist?

          1. That said, even though Horner says nothing about his age, at what point would they fit Yamamoto in? It would have to be pretty soon given that indeed he is 31. Sounds like he would be just getting in and getting up to speed (gelling with the team) at an age (let’s say 33) when rumours start to fly of current drivers soon hanging up their F1 helmets.

          2. @robbie: Guilt..er… aged by association with JB ;-)

            he’s had a very successful career racing over here with Jenson in the GTs.

  3. The criteria is “someone we can drop whenever we like”.
    Dropping Yamamoto mid-season would not go down well with honda!

    1. Now that makes sense! Having said this I agree with them dropping gasly, would’ve done so earlier, probably they made the wrong decision with vergne, promoting kvyat instead of him.

  4. Well, he’s a Suzuka specialist. He could probably shut his eyes and describe you the flow of the track precisely, when to break, when to turn in.
    I would give him a seat. He would need two-three years to find his feet, and would be better than some of the wasted seats driving around right now.

    It’s like in simrcacing, you can be the best in the world on the track you run a hundred thousand times. I can still do a 1.08 in Monaco qualifying on the PS2 Formula One 05 but nowhere near that performance at the other tracks and the newer Codemasters F1 games I just can’t find the time to play to get any good at.

  5. I can’t imagine why a Japanese engine supplier should have a top Japanese Honda driver make an appearance in a Honda powered car, driving on a track owned by Honda, in Japan. Complete mystery….

  6. Not sure about Yamamoto but it remains to be great shame that Kobayashi never got better chance in F1 because he was great. Still is in WEC where he was every bit as fast as Alonso…who received all the publicity, of course.

    1. I think that when Formula One introduced DRS, a lot of the edge that Kamui had in overtaking versus his rivals had been erased. It made him look like an ordinary midfielder than that driver who was perhaps the greatest Japanese F1 driver of all time.

  7. I know it’s probably not financially viable but I’d really like to see a F1 second division. Too many drivers that are pretty good but not quite top 3 material got wasted in sports car/FE/Indycar series. Maybe some kind of couple years old F1 car, single power unit, 10 round championship to test popularity. For me that could be fun to watch. Sure drivers like Yamamoto, Kobayashi, Chadwick and even Maldonado(:)) could attract alternative fans that might not be following F1 at the moment?

    Also a relegation/promotion systems for the constructors would surely spice up the back end of the field.

    1. A relegation/promotion system for teams would never work because teams in a lower formula been promoted to F1 wouldn’t have the resources, facilities, knowledge or ability to design/build there own car let alone the time frame to be able to do so & be somewhat competitive.

      Teams will be starting to think about the next year car fairly early into a season, Will have a design locked down by October, Start production by around November & have it finished by January. If you don’t know if your going to be in F1 or not & can’t even start to think about designing/building a car until later in a year once you have won a 2nd tier championship then you stand no chance of doing anything in F1. Look at how getting started that late worked for Caterham, Marussia & HRT in 2010.

      And for a team been relegated it would essentially finish them off as they would be losing all the revenue & exposure that F1 provides them. And even if they were able to stay afloat an F1 caliber team dropping down to a lower formula would demolish the opposition due to having F1 levels of resources & facilities. The engineering staff alone would be a massive benefit.

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