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GP Week : Issue 29
5 Minutes with ... 10 minutes with ... Takuma Sato Out of an F1 seat following the collapse of Super Aguri, Takuma Sato made a welcome return with a test run for Toro Rosso at Jerez last week. He spoke to WILL BUXTONfor a little bit more than our regular five minutes GPWEEK: Taku, great to see you back in an F1 car. Talk us through the build up to your test. TAKUMA SATO: Well for me this test started last week when I visited Faenza for the seat fitting. Obviously I’ve worked with a lot of British teams from Formula 3 days all the way through, and for me it was the very first time with an Italian team and it was very interesting to see how it works. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic! They still use the original Minardi factory, which is a bit different from some of the current F1 standards, but it all seemed so familiar because everything was in one place. It was fantastic to see all of the engineers and mechanics so passionate and welcoming and I immediately, instantly melded into it because I felt so comfortable. We did a lot of great work. We had to make the seat which went well, and then at the weekend we had the Italian Grand Prix. I think like everybody I really enjoyed the race. Then we came to Jerez, where the team was in a great mood and so was I, to be back in an F1 cockpit. The cockpit was obviously different to what I was used to so the team had to go through everything so that I was familiar with the functions, but I was immediately at home and when I drove out of the garage I was so happy. I hadn’t been in a car in almost five months and the first impression was obviously the speed, but then you just start enjoying the driving. 18 And how did you hold up physically? Obviously I continued with all the physical training but you can’t compare it really. Driving the car is the best training, and the G-forces you experience in a car you don’t get in daily life. You can’t simulate the same thing and although training is hard, the car was no problem for me. The car felt really quick. In the morning we spent a lot of time on aero set-up which the team was working on for a new aero package and then later in the morning we started doing some timed laps and I could feel the car more and was really comfortable. The confidence grew and I just really enjoyed the car. It’s one of the fastest Grand Prix cars I’ve ever driven. You can’t directly compare between the years, but I must admit, this is a top contender’s car so I really enjoyed the drive. Also, what this team has done and how they have progressed … Toro Rosso was our direct competitor at Super Aguri, so I’m pleased to see this team, in a similar situation and circumstance, become so competitive. It was very interesting and I was keen to work with the engineers who make the most of what they have got, and it was interesting to work together from an engineering point of view as well. To go over the programme and the process of understanding was really a lot of fun. What impressed you most about the car? Obviously it’s an Adrian Newey car with a Ferrari engine in the back, but what stood out for you? It is quite a different surrounding to what I’m used to, but I have to say that from the position I am in now, I have to be fair to all the makers and the teams. To comment on the direct comparison would be inappropriate. But my general feeling is that the car is just fundamentally very fast. The last two and a half years, although I had some great racing, I wasn’t consistently a top contender in Grands Prix because of the equipment we had. This is without a doubt one of the fastest cars in Formula 1, and now I understand how they are so quick! And that feeling for a racing driver is an absolute joy. Then, working with the engineers with all the different set-ups, was very interesting. The environment at the Toro Rosso team is top class. So how quickly did the day go? It went very fast. The morning you do an installation lap and check everything is OK for the seat position, and immediately we went to running continuous in and out laps before I had a couple of runs in direct comparison for different aero packages. Then, finally, we ran a few timed laps, and we were going to do a lot of proper running in the afternoon. I was really looking forward to that one, and the weather predictions in the