Joining the Club – Super Aguri
Against all expectations, Super Aguri survived their first year rather well, developing an ancient Arrows chassis into something like a modern GP car and finishing the last race of 2006 in tenth place. This season they have a development of last year’s Honda, a car that won in Hungary, and have taken a leap forward in performance as a result.
The big question is: can they maintain the pace of development and consolidate their position in the midfield? Although they are currently embarrassing their parent team, Honda, I feel that sooner or later the car will reach the limit of possible tweaks and adjustments and will begin to slip towards the back of the grid again. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with the team (indeed, they have done wonders so far); they are working with last year’s product, that’s all.
Super Aguri provide us with a glimpse of the customer teams that are likely in the future, much more so than Toro Rosso which is more like a B team to Red Bull. They are enthusiastic, dedicated and ecstatic over each small success that comes their way. And they have shown that it is not absolutely necessary to have the latest equipment to compete in F1. They might never win races but points are not completely out of the question.
The team’s choice of drivers is not bad, too. Takuma Sato is no slouch and, on occasions can be very fast indeed. And Anthony Davidson is talented and quick. Although he has taken time to get into his stride, he out-qualified Sato in Bahrain and may be about to show us how good he really is.
Treated as something of a joke last year, Super Aguri have earned their spurs and it is hard not to wish them well. If nothing else, they reflect the overwhelming enthusiasm of the Japanese for motor racing, F1 in particular.