Naoki Yamamoto took the blame for failing to retain his Super Formula championship, with the Japanese racer losing his crown by three points to New Zealander Nick Cassidy.
The DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing driver headed into the season finale at the Suzuka International Racing Course with a solitary point advantage over Cassidy but was unable to better fifth in the race, whilst his rival went onto finish second despite starting behind him.
Immediately after the race, Yamamoto went to congratulate Cassidy, who he felt ‘completely defeated’ him on the day, whilst he apologised to his engineer Kimitoshi Sugisaki for a performance he felt was under par.
However, both Sugisaki and outgoing Dandelion boss Kiyoshi Muraoka were also apologetic, as they felt they were not able to give Yamamoto a strong enough car to fight for the title.
“I had the feeling that I didn’t have it from the moment I changed to soft tyres,” Yamamoto said to Motorsport.com. “At the end it was difficult, the tyres were finished.
“To be honest, today I was completely defeated by Nick. I wasn’t really good enough. When I got out of the car, I decided to go to Nick first [to congratulate him], but then I saw Sugisaki-san was on the pitwall. I wanted to apologise to him.
“However, he said he was sorry he couldn’t make a fast enough car. Muraoka-san was the same, everyone on the team told me the word ‘sorry’ first. It was hard, because I thought I had to apologise to everyone for not being fast enough.”
Team-mate Performance Highlighted ‘Inadequacy’ – Yamamoto
Yamamoto pointed at the performance of team-mate Nirei Fukuzumi at Suzuka, who claimed his maiden Super Formula podium with a third-place finish, for what kind of pace he should have showed, with his solitary win of the season at Sugo not enough for him to become a three-time Super Formula champion.
The combined result of Fukuzumi and Yamamoto at least confirmed Dandelion as the 2019 Teams’ Champions, but Yamamoto says he wants to take some time out and come back stronger to regain his title in 2020.
“Muraoka-san told me, ‘I didn’t prepare you a good car’. But it’s not true,” said the Japanese racer, who participated his maiden Formula 1 free practice at Suzuka earlier this year with Scuderia Toro Rosso. “Fukuzumi was able to run at a good pace, the reason I didn’t finish higher was my own inadequacy.
“Now I want to reset a little, raise my motivation and come back here to try and beat Nick and my other rivals.”