Japanese drivers haven’t exactly been the most successful in Formula 1 history, but they have created some incredibly memorable moments. Here are 6 of the best.
The First Japanese Podium
The first Japanese driver to score a podium at, of all places, his home race at Suzuka. Aguri Suzuki made the most out of a race which featured *that* first corner, and a 0-stop strategy. Yes, there were quite a few high-profile retirements, but he’d qualified 9th, beaten both Williams and was only 22 seconds behind race winner Nelson Piquet to score the only podium for both himself and the Larrousse team.
Yuji Ide Gets Banned
Yuji Ide could probably feel aggrieved that he had his super license taken away from him after just four races when Pastor Maldonado lasted five seasons, but even with a fairly extensive career in junior formulae he never got comfortable with driving an F1 car. When he flipped Christijan Albers out of the San Marino Grand Prix in 2006 enough was enough.
Taki Inoue Skittles
It’s hard to pick out a single Taki Inoue moment because his whole F1 career is so legendary, from bizarre spins to being rolled over by the safety car at Monaco. The most hilarious moment though has to be when he was hit by a course car at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1995.
Sato Overtakes Alonso
An incredibly exciting driver, Takuma Sato’s best result came with a 3rd place at Indianapolis in 2004, but probably his most memorable moment came during the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. It was a pretty crazy race with multiple safety cars and accidents, including a huge crash for Robert Kubica. Lewis Hamilton took his first win but further back Sato in the Super Aguri was on a mission. A late safety car had closed the pack up and Sato was on the right tyres; four laps from the end he passed Fernando Alonso’s McLaren around the outside of the final chicane to score the team’s best result in their short history.
Kobayashi’s Home Podium
The most recent Japanese driver to score a podium did so with third place at his home race, just like Aguri Suzuki in 1990. Kamui Kobayashi quickly built up a reputation as a fearsome overtaker at Sauber, but his podium at Suzuka in 2012 was an incredibly measured drive. He started 3rd and a good start up to 2nd kept him out of trouble on the first lap. He later dropped behind Felipe Massa but managed to keep Jenson Button behind him to score his only podium in F1, and a wildly popular one at that.
Bonus Ukyo Katayama
“Undoubtedly the best Formula One driver that Grand Prix racing has ever produced” according to Murray Walker, Ukyo Katayama’s career could have been very different had he not been diagnosed with cancer in 1994. The most experienced Japanese F1 driver of all time seems to love life, so here he is doing some karate moves and using his gloves as nunchuks for some reason.