Super Aguri F1

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Super Aguri F1 is a Formula One team that made its debut in the 2006 season. The team, founded by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki, is based in Tokyo, Japan but operates from the former Arrows factory in Leafield, UK. The cars are referred to as Super Aguri Hondas, with the team functioning to some degree as an unofficial Honda 'B'-team. In Japan, public pressure persuaded Honda to help its former driver Takuma Sato to continue to compete in Formula One. This was influential in the creation of Super Aguri's F1 project and the engine supply from Honda.

Team creation

The team faced a daunting challenge merely to be ready for the first race of the season. Initially, it notified the FIA on November 1 (ahead of the governing body's November 15 deadline) of its intention to enter. However, the FIA's official press release of the entry list for 2006 confirmed that it had not approved Super Aguri's entry: this was reported to be due to the team's failure to produce the required $48 million entry bond on time.[1][2] However, the team re-applied for entry in 2006, and continued to prepare cars for the upcoming season. [3]

Takuma Sato driving for Super Aguri at the 2006 United States Grand Prix.

Having missed the initial registration, the team needed to convince the existing ten teams to unanimously agree to its entry. It appeared that the Midland team was blocking the entry on the grounds of potentially reduced TV revenue, but it was eventually granted the necessary unanimous agreement and the team's entry was confirmed by the FIA on 26 January 2006.[4]

The 2006 season

In 2006, the cars were powered by Honda engines (RA806E 2.4 V8), and used Bridgestone tyres. The chassis, SA05, was based on the 2002 Arrows A23, bought from ex-Minardi principal Paul Stoddart who purchased them when the Arrows team went into receivership. The team had announced plans to produce a new in-house chassis later on in the 2006 season, possibly for the European races, but this never came into fruition. Instead, the team updated their older chassis to become the SA06 - a change which was visible from the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, onwards.[5]

Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide were the initial race drivers for the team in the 2006 season, with Franck Montagny as the third driver. On May 4, after four races, the team announced that Montagny would be replacing Ide as race driver in the European Grand Prix and subsequent races.

The team made it onto the grid for the start of the season. In its debut race at Bahrain Sato successfully completed the Grand Prix while Ide retired on lap 35 with a mechanical failure and after nearly running over his pit crew. Suzuki deemed this race to be a good test for the team as the car had only done a maximum of 10 laps during pre-season testing. The team's second race (in Malaysia) was little better, with again only Sato finishing the race.

Super Aguri's third race, the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, saw significant improvement. Yuji Ide said, "This is the first time that both Taku and I have finished a race, so I am happy about that." [6]

For the European Grand Prix, Yuji Ide and Franck Montagny swapped roles within the team, at the request of the FIA, who felt Ide needed more experience outside of the Grands Prix. This was mostly due to a spectacular collision between him and Midland driver Christijan Albers at the San Marino GP.

As of May 10, 2006 the FIA Permit Office revoked Yuji Ide's Super Licence, thus preventing his return to an F1 seat until at least the 2007 season. Franck Montagny raced until and including the French Grand Prix, and on June 8 2006 Sakon Yamamoto became Super Aguri's third driver. Montagny and Yamamoto swapped roles for the 2006 German Grand Prix, with Yamamoto taking over Super Aguri's second car.

When the updated car (the SA06) was first raced in the German Grand Prix, it managed to impress, with decent qualifying positions (managing to outperform the Midland F1 Team), although failing to finish the race.

The team's improving form culminated with an impressive tenth place at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix from Sato, whilst Yamamoto set the seventh-fastest fastest lap, less than a second behind most of the points-finishers.[7]

The 2007 season

Anthony Davidson driving for Super Aguri at the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Reports suggesting that the team would be using the works Honda chassis of 2006 have come under intense resistance by rival teams Williams and Spyker, who have contested that the practice is against Formula 1 regulations.[8] The teams cite the fact that the Concorde Agreement mandates a car may not use any parts designed or constructed by another manufacturer of Formula 1 cars. Super Aguri (as well as Scuderia Toro Rosso and Red Bull) would seem to be in violation about this. The FIA however does not have the authority to act on the Concorde Agreement without the matter already being resolved in court. However, Super Aguri (as well as the Red Bull teams) have stated that they are in compliance with the sport's regulations, though the matter is still of great contention.[9]

Super Aguri announced on 15th November that Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson (previously Honda third and test driver) will be driving for the team in 2007.[10] Super Aguri also confirmed, on December 15, that Giedo van der Garde would be their third driver in the 2007 season. However, the Dutchman left for Spyker F1 before the season began.[11] Sakon Yamamoto, who was a second driver in late 2006, will go back to being a test driver for 2007.

The team suffered a major setback when their car for 2007 failed the FIA crash test, with the rear of the car being destroyed more than is allowed. On 2nd March, Super Aguri pushed back the launch of its new car by two days, with the SA07 unveiled less than 48 hours before the first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix. Team's drivers Davidson and Sato shocked many people with getting 10th and 11th place in qualifying for Australian GP. Until this, the best result in qualification set by this team was 17th place (by Takuma Sato). Sato dropped to 12th by the race's end, while Anthony Davidson's race was ruined on the very first lap when Spyker's Adrian Sutil collided with him after a failed passing move. Davidson suffered a little pain following this and struggled, finishing only in 16th place.

Shortly before the 2007 Australian Grand Prix, the team announced SS United Group Oil & Gas Company as its title sponsor.

At the Spanish Grand Prix the team scored its first point ever, when Takuma Sato finished in 8th place. The Japanese driver benefitted from the high attrition rate which saw cars usually in the points from Ferrari, BMW Sauber, Toyota and Williams drop out.

At the Canadian Grand Prix, the team scored its highest finish to that date, with Takuma Sato finising 6th and garnering 3 points, passing defending world champion Fernando Alonso on track en route. ITV commentators mention that had it not been for a botched pit stop, Sato may have finished as high as fourth. Sato had been running 5th at the time of the pit stop. Sato's Aguri also finished ahead of the works Honda team, also having outqualified them.

After the European Grand Prix, Sakon Yamamoto was signed up by the Spyker F1 team for the remainder of the season, filling in the seat left vacant by Christijan Albers.

Complete Formula One results

(key) (results in bold indicate pole position)

Year Chassis Engine Tyres Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Points WCC
2006 Super Aguri SA05
Super Aguri SA06
Honda V8 B BHR MAL AUS SMR EUR ESP MON GBR CAN USA FRA GER HUN TUR ITA CHN JPN BRA 0 11th
Takuma Sato 18 14 12 Ret Ret 17 Ret 17 15 Ret Ret Ret 13 NC 16 DSQ 15 10
Yuji Ide Ret Ret 13 Ret
Franck Montagny Ret Ret 16 18 Ret Ret 16
Sakon Yamamoto Ret Ret Ret Ret 16 17 16
2007 Super Aguri SA07 Honda V8 B AUS MAL BHR ESP MON CAN USA FRA GBR EUR HUN TUR ITA BEL JPN CHN BRA 4[12] 8th[12]
Takuma Sato 12 13 Ret 8 17 6 Ret 16 14 Ret 15
Anthony Davidson 16 16 16 11 18 11 11 Ret Ret 12 Ret

Trivia

  • There is already a well established fan club for Takuma Sato, and some of that base spawned the Unofficial Fan Club for SAF1 (and see external links below) which is growing every week. Fans from around the world are joining in to support the fledgling team.
  • Steve Matchett, SPEED Channel's Formula One commentator, often refers to the team as the "Super Best Friends," after the South Park episode of the same name.

References

  1. ^ FIA entry list for 2006
  2. ^ Grandprix.com article
  3. ^ BBC News article
  4. ^ FIA Press Release
  5. ^ Formula-1.updatesport.com article
  6. ^ Formula1.com article
  7. ^ Formula1.com data, retrieved 22 October 2006
  8. ^ Autosport article, retrieved July 5, 2007
  9. ^ "Spyker hits out at rival". Autosport. 188 (9): pp. 11. June 28, 2007. Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: extra text (link)
  10. ^ NewsOnF1.com article, retrieved November 15th, 2006.
  11. ^ "Van der Garde leaves Aguri for Spyker". Autosport.com. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-02-01. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ a b Season ongoing

External links