Naoki Yamamoto felt positive after his maiden outing in a Formula 1 car during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, with the Super Formula champion ending his session seventeenth fastest.
Yamamoto stood in for Pierre Gasly at Scuderia Toro Rosso for first practice at the Suzuka International Racing Course and quickly adapted to the STR14, although he was shocked at just how much power the car had compared to his usual Super Formula machine.
“I spent the session getting used to the car; the power is amazing!” said Yamamoto. “I was very surprised, I have never felt such power before, so that was the biggest difference between Super Formula and Formula 1.”
Yamamoto felt he was able to give some good feedback to the engineers during the session, and he thanked the fans for coming out on Friday to support both the team and engine suppliers Honda. He admitted he would have preferred to have finished higher up the order than seventeenth, but at least he had a clean session and was able to complete a good number of laps.
“I learnt a few things about the car and the balance, and I gave as much feedback as possible to the team,” said Yamamoto. “This is my home Grand Prix and there are a lot of fans coming to Suzuka, even for FP1 on a Friday! I was really surprised and I would like to say thank you very much to all of the Honda and Toro Rosso fans.
“For sure I wanted to have a better result than seventeenth, but the most important thing is that I didn’t crash and I provided good information for the engineers. I wish the team a great result this weekend, especially Pierre as he gave me his car – I am grateful to him.”
Gasly, who’s car Yamamoto ran during the opening session at Suzuka, was pleased that his former Super Formula team-mate was given the chance to run in Formula 1 machinery for the first time this weekend.
“He helped me a lot that year [in Super Formula], I know how nice he is and how much he wanted to try F1,” Gasly is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com.
“And after the session I asked him if he enjoyed it and he told me, ‘The power is amazing! I know that he really enjoyed it which was the main thing and he did really well as well. We managed to get almost everything we wanted.”
Despite his impressive performance however, Yamamoto is unlikely to find himself a drive in Formula 1 in 2020, at least not with the two Red Bull teams, with Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner feeling the Japanese racer doesn’t currently fit the criteria to join Toro Rosso next season.
“He’s done a very good job for his first session here in a Formula 1 car,” Horner is quoted as saying by Formula1.com. “I think he acquitted himself extremely well. He’s had a very successful career racing over here and with Jenson [Button] in the GTs. He doesn’t fit the criteria at the moment, but he’s certainly worth giving a run and having a look at today.
“I don’t know the exact ins and outs of [Toro Rosso’s] run plans, but you’d have to say it’s pretty usual that they run a standard setting across the two cars – so he’s done a pretty decent job there.”