Naoki Yamamoto to Make Free Practice Debut with Toro Rosso at Suzuka

by Paul Hensby

Naoki Yamamoto will make his Formula 1 track debut this weekend at the Suzuka International Racing Course as he will take over the Scuderia Toro Rosso seat of Pierre Gasly for the opening free practice session.

Yamamoto is the reigning Super Formula and Super GT champion in Japan and has been a Honda-backed driver for a number of years but will get his first opportunity behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car this weekend at the age of thirty-one.

“First of all, I would like to thank Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull and of course Honda for giving me this great opportunity,” said Yamamoto.  “I am delighted that I will get to drive a Formula 1 car this weekend, something which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.

“To get this chance at Suzuka, a very important circuit for all Japanese racing drivers, in front of such a big crowd of Japanese fans, will make the experience even more special. I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator.”

Yamamoto says his primary aim is to provide good feedback and give the team a good start to the weekend, but he will be giving it his all in his maiden run in Formula 1 machinery.

“My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend,” said the Japanese racer.  “On a personal note, I want to enjoy the experience of driving an F1 car as much as possible and I will be trying my very best to get the most out of it.

“It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”

Franz Tost, the Team Principal of Toro Rosso, is pleased to have a Japanese driver on board for the opening session of the weekend, and he feels Yamamoto is a talented driver who he cannot wait to see behind the wheel of the STR14.

“We are very pleased to have a Japanese driver here in Suzuka driving our STR Honda, and we are sure that Naoki san will enjoy the laps in FP1 on one of the greatest race tracks in the world,” said Tost.  “He is a talented driver, being the reigning champion in Japan’s two most important race series, and he also knows the Suzuka circuit very well.

“Naoki san has spent several European races as part of our team this year, getting to know the engineers he will work with this weekend and he has also spent time in our simulator. I am sure that all the fans in the grandstands will enjoy seeing a Japanese driver taking part in the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.”

Katsuhide Moriyama, the Chief Officer of Brand and Communication Operations at Honda Motor Co. Ltd, is pleased that Japanese fans will be able to see a Japanese driver on track, with Kamui Kobayashi the last to race in Formula 1 back in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“We are pleased that Japanese fans will now get the opportunity to see Yamamoto, a Honda supported Japanese driver at the wheel of a current F1 car at our own Suzuka circuit, as part of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend,” said Moriyama.  “I would like to thank Toro Rosso and Red Bull for giving Yamamoto this great opportunity.

“We hope Naoki makes the most of this opportunity, that he learns from it and that it helps him as a racing driver. We also hope that seeing Yamamoto on track, will serve as an inspiration to young Japanese drivers, so that in the near future, we can once again have Japanese drivers competing in Formula 1.”

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