TAKUMA SATO: GUTS, THEN GLORY
Repeated mental rehearsals for a
specific racing situation that might never
arise again don’t tally readily against
Sato’s “No attack, no chance” reputation.
sometimes those things override each
other, but for the most part, he’s so
intelligent that he knows what needs to
be done. It’s the mind versus the heart.”
“He likes to go through the data
thoroughly, so we try to talk to each
other at dinner, and he’ll ask me things –
how we could improve; how we can
ensure that we’re providing him with
messages that are worthwhile.”
Some of this attention to detail might
have its roots in the Formula 1 chapter of
his career: seven-ish years immersed in a
world where data is everything.
Mothershead agrees that’s part of it, but
notes that Sato’s approach is somewhat
extreme even by those standards.
“We had Fernando [Alonso] in the
[Andretti] garage this year, plus I worked
If reputations translated
into lap times, Takuma Sato
would have been
unstoppable when he first
arrived in Formula 1 with
the Jordan team in 2002.
He spent 2001
establishing one of the most
dominant F3 campaigns
ever, interspersed with F1
testing for de facto Honda
works team BAR. And it’s
true that he made an impact
when he finally arrived as an
F1 driver. Several really big
ones, in fact. The pile of
scrapped carbon fiber
behind Jordan’s Silverstone
base growing steadily higher.
Often, Sato’s early
“‘No attack, no chance’ is Takuma’s
crashes were the predictable
outcome of trying to push
a resolutely midfield car
beyond its limits, and the
worst – a horrifying
broadside involving Nick
Heidfeld’s Sauber in Austria
in 2002 (ABOVE) – wasn’t
even his fault. Yet to a
degree they came to define
him, even as he moved from
Jordan to BAR for 2003,
and later to Super Aguri.
But if “No attack, no
chance” was in evidence
back then, so was his speed.
Much of any F1 driver’s
career is dictated by their
equipment, and Sato never
had a car genuinely capable
of running up front every
weekend. However, the raw
speed was still there for
those who cared to look.
His sole podium at the
2004 U.S. GP stands out,
but his flair for heroics was
perhaps even more evident
at Canada in ’07, when he
passed Ralf Schumacher
and Fernando Alonso in
the closing laps to earn a
priceless sixth place for the
tiny Super Aguri team.
ARRIVING WITH A CRUNCH
internal build. But the complication to
it is, he’s such a damn intelligent guy”
Brains, or banzai? The answer is: both.
Engineer Garrett Mothershead, who
worked with Sato at KV Racing and was
reunited with him at Andretti this year,
says that Sato’s healthy appetite for risk
is real, but it’s offset by a cerebral side
that is sometimes overlooked.
“That ‘No attack, no chance’ is kind of
his mantra and his persona; his internal
build,” he says. “But the complication to it
is, he’s such a damn intelligent guy. He’s
so smart. Emotionally, that [mantra] is
where he’s at. But intellectually, he’s
smart enough to know better. Now,
The closest Takuma Sato
came to a “big team” was
his 2003-’05 stint with
BAR, although its results
rarely reflected its budget.
Sato joined Super Aguri
for its first season in 2006.
He was still there when
the funding – and team –
evaporated early in ’08.
SO CLOSE... ...AND YET SO FAR