Yamamoto to make F1 debut at Suzuka

Reigning Super Formula and Super GT driver Naoki Yamamoto will make his Formula 1 debut this weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The 31-year-old will take part in the first Free Practice session on Friday, replacing Pierre Gasly, and will be the first Japanese driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend since Kamui Kobayashi’s last race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2014.

The outing comes as Honda wanted a local driver to take part in its home Grand Prix event and Yamamoto was the perfect fit, being the the most high profile driver in Japanese single seaters linked with the manufacturer.

Speaking about the announcement, Yamamoto said: “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.

In order to prepare for his outing, Yamamoto has been working with Toro Rosso at their factory and has undertaken simulator work in order to get him accustomed with the car, and he is hoping he will be able to contribute to the team’s programme over the weekend.

“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.” added the Super Formula champion.

“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.”

After the Japanese Grand Prix, Yamamoto will return to action in the Super Formula championship at Suzuka, where he will aim to win his second straight title.

He also dovetails Super Formula with Super GT, where he shares a Honda NSX-GT GT500 with Jenson Button, although the pair have struggled this season and sit eighth in the championship.