Although he was never going to grab the limelight as a driver, Takuma Sato often outperformed his machinery towards the end of his Formula One career. He was the only driver to score points for Japanese team Super Aguri during their very brief history.
On his way to F1, Sato won the 2001 British Formula 3 championship, the Macau Grand Prix and the Masters of Formula 3. It was to no-one’s surprise that Eddie Jordan snapped him up for 2002 to race for his team.
2002 proved to be an eventful debut year for the young Japanese driver. He didn’t score points until the last round in Japan, where he took a fairytale 5th place in front of his home faithful. The emphasis was more focused on the 7 retirements of that year, including a terrible crash with Nick Heidfeld in Austria, with the Sauber striking his car so violently it punched a hole in the cockpit of his Jordan. Sato was extracted from his car, but was okay, miraculously.
He didn’t have a drive for 2003 and was thus snapped up by the Honda powered BAR team, where he drove one race, at the last race in Japan, where he again scored points. 2004 though was his best year. The BAR was fast and the Honda works engine was reliable. But while Jenson Button, his team-mate came 3rd in the overall standings, Sato could only manage 8th, but he took his first and only podium in the sport at Indianapolis for the US Grand Prix.
2005 was not so good. 2 disqualifications, 3 retirements and 3 non-starts led to him only be able to manage 1 points finish, at Hungary. He was dropped by Honda for 2006, unsurprisingly.
And so, for the last 3 years of his F1 career he ended up at the newly formed, cash-strapped Super Aguri team. For 2006, the team used Arrows’ 2002 chassis and had a woefully underpowered Honda engine, meaning Sato and team-mates Ide, Montagny and Yamamoto struggled and didn’t score any points at all.
2007 brought a change in fortunes for Aguri Suzuki’s team. Sato drove his car to the limit in Spain and Canada, scoring points in both; he even overtook reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso at Canada. The rest of year was the same old story unfortunately, no points and languishing at the back of the field.
His last F1 year ended prematurely. After the 4th round in Spain, Super Aguri went into administration and folded. Sato and Anthony Davidson were last in the championship, quelle surprise….
Since 2010, Sato has been competing in the IndyCar series over in America, where’s he’s managed 1 win.