Naoki Yamamoto, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 2019

Yamamoto was given special exception for Suzuka practice run

2019 F1 season

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The FIA made a special exception for Naoki Yamamoto to participate in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Honda-backed driver did not have enough FIA superlicence points to qualify for the necessary superlicence to participate.

However FIA race director Michael Masi said the FIA World Motor Sport Council ruled that Yamamoto will inevitably qualify for one before the end of the season. They therefore decided to make an exception so he could drive the STR14 in front of his home crowd last Friday.

“It was a decision of the World Motor Sport Council, the only body that can effectively make that decision,” he said. “They did so last week.

“The final round of Super Formula is in two weeks’ time, and even if he didn’t compete in that event he still would have had enough Super Licence points to give him a superlicence

“So it is effectively the two-week timing that worked against him. So as a result the World Motor Sport Council made a decision that he would be issued a super licence because of that fact.”

Yamamoto impressed on his first run in an F1 car, lapping within a tenth of a second of the team’s regular driver Daniil Kvyat.

Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe praised Yamamoto’s first run. “He was able to do a good job and provide useful feedback for the engineers. From a personal point of view it was enjoyable to work with a Japanese driver in F1, speaking in Japanese!”

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Pictures: Naoki Yamamoto’s F1 practice debut at Suzuka

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2019 F1 season

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18 comments on “Yamamoto was given special exception for Suzuka practice run”

  1. I don’t like when Rules are broken, but this is a nice example of such deviation done right.

    Maybe this also opens the eyes of RBR/TR on Kvyat’s driving skills. Double bonus!

    1. @dallein, Yamamoto was using the soft compound when he set his best time, whilst Kvyat was on the medium compound – so although the times were close, the difference in compounds is perhaps flattering the situation a bit.

      As an aside though, I thought that Yamamoto should have had enough points for a practise superlicence – in fact, I would have thought that he should qualify for a full superlicence – given a practise only superlicence only requires 25 points, whilst a full superlicence requires 40.

      In 2018, Yamamoto won both the Japanese Super GT championship and the Japanese Super Formula series – the winner of the Super Formula series should get 25 points towards a superlicence, enough to take them over the threshold for a practise only licence, whilst the Super GT series should award another 20 points.

      Put those two totals together, and Yamamoto should have 45 points – enough to take him over the threshold for a full superlicence, let alone one for practise sessions only, which is why I don’t understand why Masi thought he didn’t have enough points.

      1. Super GT appears to have only given 10 points prior to this year; if so Yamamoto would only have 35 points.

        1. You’re right that it might be less than 20 points, but I thought that, in late 2017, the points system was revised so, as of 2018, they would award 15 points to the winner of the Super GT championship.

          However, even if he only had 35 points, that is still more than enough for a practise only superlicence though – a driver only needs 25 points for that, so he should have been comfortably over that threshold as a minimum.

      2. @anon even though the wording in the article seems to imply otherwise, I think the points are not the issue here and the phrasing is a bit unfortunate.

        So get this. The F1 regulations allow a driver two ways to take part in FP1:
        a) hold a valid super licence (the full one)
        b) hold a valid free practice only super licence

        For the first one, you need to accumulate 40 points (among some other things Yamamoto has – valid Grade A licence, 2 seasons in single seaters, be 18 years old, complete a questionnaire, …). Points structure is a bit hazy given the changes over the past years for SF and the addition of SuperGT and I’m at this point not sure which years count and for how many points, but I’m going to assume the FIA have a clear overview and he isn’t fulfilling this requirement.

        So, a free practice only super licence then. No problem since he absolutely has accumulated the 25 points, right? Ah, but there’s an extra requirement in play here that isn’t counting for the full super licence: for the FP only licence one needs to “show that the applicant has driven at least 300 km in a representative Formula One car”. And this is actually where Yamamoto doesn’t comply, so he wasn’t eligible for the FP only licence.

        So Yamamoto indeed needed a special grant for driving in FP1.

        So why is Masi talking about the accumulated points then? Well, simple. Phrased in a more understable manner, what Masi actually means is “well he hasn’t done the 300km for the FP only license, but in two weeks he will qualify for the full licence anyway so we’re going to allow it”.

    2. whats wrong with Kvyat’s driving skills? he has had a pretty great season.

  2. It’s fine, but the obvious question is: why doesn’t he have enough points for a super license, let alone a free practice license? Obviously I don’t think he has much of a chance nabbing a seat but he obviously has the skills to drive the car, don’t see why the point system should exclude him.

  3. From a personal point of view it was enjoyable to work with a Japanese driver in F1, speaking in Japanese!

    …methinks there is a new testdriver for engine development if one of the cars nex year.

  4. Strange! With his first place in Super GT and Super Formula last year he should easily qualify for a FP super licence.
    And his results this year should make him eligible for a full super licence next year.

    1. @silfen I’ve posted an explanation above – FP super licence requires to have driven 300km in a representative car, which Yamamoto did not do.

  5. I like the flexibility, but then again have to ask, where is the limit? Can a GP2 driver jump into F1 midseason because they would be eligible for a super licence by the end of the year?

    1. but what would be the problem it he would really be eligible

  6. Like everyone else I don’t understand how he doesn’t already qualify for a super license?

  7. Gavin Campbell
    16th October 2019, 10:06

    The point of the superlicense is to stop super pay drivers and support the lower categories – I can understand the exception that the driver has already won enough super license points they just haven’t been officially awarded to them (IE So Nyck De Vries has won F2 this year, so say Williams want to run him for a couple of rounds but he won’t get the 40 points until after the season finale. I would think thats a fair exception or argument that he in reality does have enough points)

    So its more a letter of the law versus spirit of the law thing.

  8. RIP Charlie Whiting

  9. The superlicense point system is junk and has functionally killed feeder series quality. Enjoy Verstappen, Leclerc and Russell, because they will be the last actual talent coming to F1 for at least half a decade, possibly even longer. Every exception weakens the rule and may one day be used to remove one of the worst rules in F1 history. Let’s go Yamamoto, let’s go Honda, get more guys exceptions.

  10. Never supported this system. Fia can still make money while opening the system.

  11. roberto giacometti
    17th October 2019, 5:07

    Rules for some !!!

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