Japanese Grand Prix – Toro Rosso’s FP1 driver Naoki Yamamoto says he was very impressed by the sheer power of a Formula 1 car.
Japanese Super Formula championship leader Naoki Yamamoto was given the keys to Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso STR14 for the first practice session in Japan, due to his strong Honda links and the desire of the Japanese manufacturer to have a home driver appear in front of the local crowd.
Yamamoto’s appearance was mightily impressive, as the 31 year old slung the car around almost from the get-go. He finished the session in P17, ahead of both Williams drivers and just a tenth behind regular driver Daniil Kvyat on the same tyre compound.
Savouring his thirty laps of Suzuka, Yamamoto thanked the team and Honda over team radio as the chequered flag dropped and explained afterwards how the session went for him: “I spent the session getting used to the car; the power is amazing! I was very surprised, I have never felt such power before, so that was the biggest difference between Super Formula and Formula 1.”
“I learnt a few things about the car and the balance, and I gave as much feedback as possible to the team. 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.” Yamamoto continued. “For sure I wanted to have a better result than 17th, 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.”
Honda’s Toyoharu Tanabe, speaking at the team’s press conference after FP1, praised his performance by saying: Considering it’s his first run on a Grand Prix weekend I think he did a good job. Comparing the lap time against Daniil is a bit difficult because they are doing different strategy in the practice. But he did a decent job for the team to set up the car in the first session of the weekend and then his run today will definitely encourage Japanese young drivers.”
Yamamoto’s race engineer for the session, Jonathon Eddolls, said: “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. 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!