Sato hopes for Formula One reprieve

Japanese driver Takuma Sato said here on Friday that he still hopes to be racing in Formula One in 2006 after being dropped by BAR-Honda for next season.

BAR confirmed earlier this week that Briton Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello will be their race drivers for 2006 and that Sato would have to drop down to a third driver or leave the team.

The 28-year-old, who has been racing for BAR for two full seasons, was disappointed at the way the team revealed the news, and said: “I still want to be a Formula One driver of course.

“Strictly speaking, I am not really interested in a testing role. To be honest I have done it already and in my heart I want to be a driver. There are not many seats available but there are a few.
We will see.

“At the moment I am really concentrating on Formula One, if there is some possibilities for next year we will consider it. I do have options but I want to be back racing.”

Sato has failed to shine this season after a promising debut year with the team in 2003 and his options for a place on the grid are limited with virtually all the top team drives already taken.

BAR and Honda are trying hard to help him secure a strong future and team boss Nick Fry said on Thursday: “Takuma has done a great job for us and has been very popular so we are working with his management to help with his future.

“We don’t know what that will be yet but we want to help make sure he can have a good future. The best thing for him is to give him maximum support for the last few races.”

Sato has only scored one point in the 16 races so far this season and caused controversy at the last race in Belgium when he accidentally punted the rear of world champion Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.

The pair have since spoken about the incident, which caused Schumacher to react aggressively and slap down Sato’s helmet visor, and the Japanese driver is determined to look forward to three final strong races for the team.

One of those races will be his home race in Suzuka, where he will be hoping to give his home crowd a successful farewell, but he needs to secure a good finish here in Brazil to ensure a good qualifying spot for that next race in Japan.

Sato was punished ten grid places for his mistake in Belgium and he said: “It is highly likely I am starting towards the back of the grid here in Brazil but I have to be optimistic to overtake people from the back of the grid.

“We need good results here to compete at Suzuka. The performance is promising and the car felt really good. We are confident we have a good car here, we really need the momentum for Suzuka.

“I have my view and my opinion [on what has happened] but I am not going to say it yet because I do not want to waste the energy. I really want to race in the last three races and have really good races with the team.

“Before today it was a bit difficult to concentrate, of course, but once I got back into the car I was happy in the cockpit and the people have been really supportive. I am enjoying every single Grand Prix.

“Although my future isn’t clear at the moment I really want to have really good races in the last three races.” - Sapa-AFP

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