Toyoharu Tanabe was pleased with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Friday practice sessions at the Suzuka International Racing Course, with the Honda F1 Technical Director delighted to have been able to give Naoki Yamamoto his maiden practice outing.
Yamamoto took over the STR14 usually driven by Pierre Gasly for the opening session before the Frenchman returned to the car for the all-important afternoon session, which could set the grid on Sunday should Qualifying be cancelled due to typhoon Hagibis.
Tanabe saw Yamamoto end his first practice session in seventeenth, just one place and under a tenth of a second behind team-mate Daniil Kvyat, while Gasly ended the afternoon session in ninth as Kvyat improved to twelfth.
“We are very pleased to be racing at our home track here in Suzuka,” said Tanabe. “Due to the threat of the typhoon, all track activity is cancelled tomorrow, therefore we changed our programme today, running our entire qualifying and race set up in FP2. It’s a shame for the Japanese fans who have been looking forward to this weekend and it is a shame for us too at our homes race, but safety concerns must come first.
“In terms of today’s sessions, the initial signs are encouraging with both our teams looking competitive. As for Naoki Yamamoto, who drove an F1 car, the Toro Rosso, for the very first time today, 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!”
Jonathan Eddolls, the Chief Race Engineer at Toro Rosso, felt Yamamoto did a solid job behind the wheel of the STR14 on Friday morning as he completed thirty mistake-free laps of Suzuka. The Japanese driver knows the track well thanks to his time in Super Formula but Eddolls felt it was an impressive outing none-the-less for the thirty-one-year-old.
“It was great to welcome Naoki san to the team and give him the opportunity to drive the STR14 in FP1 – the atmosphere around the paddock and garage created by Naoki driving the STR Honda in Suzuka was fantastic,” said Eddolls.
“He drove Pierre’s car and did an extremely solid job for the team. From his first lap you could tell he was on it and he built up the pace lap to lap during this run. Switching to the Option compound for the second run, he extracted the expected improvement in grip from the track and tyre, setting a competitive lap time.
“He obviously knows the circuit well but this was an impressive session for his first outing in an F1 car!”