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Team Biography




Team Biography


Ever since Arrows slipped off the F1 grid in 2001, leaving just ten teams contesting the World Championship, there has been speculation at to when F1 might witness the arrival of a new team.

There have been a few false starts, not least Team Dubai, and Phoenix, which was basically a misguided attempt to secure the former Prost outfit's TV money.

In 2005, talk of an eleventh team was back on the agenda, with various manufacturers and entrepreneurs said to be looking at feasibility of entering the sport.

Of course, other than the $48m bond required by the FIA, there is the further $200 - $300 (minimum) that would be needed to set up a basic F1 team in these days of concentrated manufacturer involvement and regular rule changes. Consequently, although it was likely that existing teams might sell-out, the arrival of a brand new 'eleventh team' seemed highly unlikely, until Suzuka 2005.

The F1 paddock at Suzuka went crazy, with talk of a Japanese team, a Russian team and even a Middle Eastern team seeking to enter F1, with various names including Trevor Carlin, David Price and Aguri Suzuki, all claimed to be "involved" in projects.

At one stage, there was even talk of a 'secret test' in Dubai on the Monday after the Japanese Grand Prix, as the rumour mill got totally out of control.

Then came the news that Honda was to be involved in a new team - even though it was on the verge of purchasing BAR - and that Takuma Sato was being lined up as lead driver.

The sceptics, of which there are (rightly) many in the F1 paddock and F1 media, believed that this was merely a ploy of Honda's in order to prevent any 'nastiness' at its home race following the news that Sato was being dropped by BAR (Honda) in 2006 in favour of Rubens Barrichello.

One man who was highly sceptical of the 'eleventh team' talk was Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, who was already in the process of selling his team to Red Bull. "I don't believe there will be another team in 2006," said the Australian.

Other than concern as to who was behind the team and where the money would come from, people were wondering where exactly Honda fitted in.

There would be no problem with the Japanese manufacturer supplying engines for the new team, after all, this was exactly what FIA President, Max Mosley, was hoping for. However, what about chassis… would the new team build its own or was there any truth in the rumour that it might purchase 2005 BAR chassis, even purchasing the intellectual property rights.

"There are people up and down this pit lane that know full well what is contained within the Concorde agreement, that would not take too kindly to a car being a clone of another, before 2008," said Stoddart, the Concorde Agreement being a pet subject.

"To just sell the intellectual property rights to one year of one particular car doesn't actually get around the problem. Concorde actually says 'not designed by, manufactured by or owned by another team'.

"Just owning the intellectual property rights to the chassis is one half of it. How you would overcome the 'not designed by, not manufactured by' clause I don't think is that easy."

Yet the rumours persisted, and the name that we kept hearing was that of former F1 driver, Aguri Suzuki, who, following his retirement from F1, was involved in a personal project promoting young drivers, before taking a role in the establishment of Honda's Formula Dream. In late 2002, Super Aguri and Fernández Racing formed the Super Aguri Fernández Racing IRL team.

As the speculation continued, Suzuki's project seemed to be the only real possibility, yet there was still a feeling that it was all a bit of a hoax, a situation not helped by the lack of comment from any of those involved.

Finally, at the beginning of November (2005), Suzuki went public: "We have cleared all the hurdles we had to clear up to this point," he told reporters in Tokyo. "Obviously there is a huge amount of work left but we plan to be on the grid in 2006.

"We have the technical cooperation of Honda behind us so we are confident of achieving our dream of competing in Formula One," he added.

Then it all went quiet ominously again.

The FIA released the official 2006 entry list, and there was no mention of super Aguri. "Maybe next year," we all thought.

Then came the news that after much typical F1 debate, the ten existing teams had given Suzuki the all-clear to enter F1, while Paul Stoddart solved the issue of chassis by selling the Japanese team the plans and intellectual property right of the 2002 car, which he owned.

After a few more weeks of 'will they, won't they', the FIA finally announced, on January 26, less than fifty days before the start of the season, the approval had been given for Super Aguri's entry to the World Championship.

"I am very happy that the FIA has our team's application," said Suzuki. "I am thankful for the support we received from all of the other F1 teams and we look forward to seeing them soon.

"Our team members are doing their best to make sure that we are on the grid in Bahrain," he added.

The team did indeed start the season with the 2002 Arrows, intending to introduce its own chassis later in the season, possibly at Imola. The reality was that the SA06 didn't appear until Hockenheim, which also marked the arrival of Sakon Yamamoto… but that's another story.

On Wednesday February 15, the day after shaking down the Arrows at an airfield in Gloucestershire, and a week ahead of the team's official track debut (Barcelona), Super Aguri finally confirmed its 2006 line-up, with Takuma Sato being joined by former Formula Nippon race, Yuji Ide.

On paper, a season in which a team failed to score a single point and whose best race result was tenth (Brazil), might be regarded a something of a disaster. However, the very fact that Super Aguri lined-up on the grid in Bahrain - albeit with a four-year-old chassis - and introduced its own car just over four month later, was a major achievement, and should be fully recognised as such.

The team was always going to struggle, especially with the Arrows chassis, and it came as little surprise that Sato was almost 4s off the pace in qualifying for the season opener.

Things weren't helped by the team's choice of second driver, and following a stupid mistake at Imola, the FIA opted to revoke Ide's superlicence, leaving the team to draft in former Renault tester Franck Montagny. The experienced Frenchman did his best, but like teammate Sato, there was only so much he could do.

Following numerous delays, the SA06 should have made its debut in France, but in fact didn't arrive until the following round of the championship (Germany), along with Montagny's replacement Sakon Yamamoto.

Sato made an instant impact with the new car, splitting the Midlands in qualifying - a significant achievement considering he'd been 1.5s off their pace in Bahrain. Though neither car finished the race, it was an encouraging start.

Following a string of disappointing performances, the technical department was given a major shake-up in late September, with Mark Preston being promoted to the role of Technical Director. It appeared to be a good move, for the team suddenly appeared to find fresh pace and reliability, with Sato now able to challenge the Toro Rossos.

In Japan - the team's home race - both Super Aguris made it to the flag for the first time, however, this was after a (double) blue-flag offence in China saw Sato disqualified having finished fourteenth on the road.

In the season finale at Interlagos, all the hard work paid off when Sato finished tenth and Yamamoto posted the seventh fastest lap of the race. While such a result might mean nothing to the big guns, for the little Leafield outfit it was a fantastic achievement, a fitting 'reward' after a difficult debut season.

Heading into 2007, things were looking exceedingly positive. The team, with the full blessing of the FIA, was to use the Honda chassis which had proved so successful in the latter half of 2006, while Anthony Davidson was recruited to join Sato, both having worked together at Carlin in F3.

While the FIA had declared the use of the Honda RA106 chassis legal, several other teams weren't so sure, consequently, following a protest at the Australian GP by Spyker there were rumblings regards the legality of the SA07 for the remainder of the season. Of course, the situation regarding the car's legality wasn't helped by the fact that in Melbourne Sato and Davidson qualified tenth and eleventh, outclassing the Williams, Hondas, Toro Rossos a Renault and a Ferrari.

Three races later, in Spain, the team claimed its first point of the year, the operation clearly having made huge strides forward, thanks, in part, to the Honda chassis and the introduction of a single tyre supplier.

In Canada, Sato brought his car home in sixth, embarrassing not only Honda but fellow-Japanese team Toyota, whose Ralf Schumacher was unable to hold off a man who was clearly on a mission. Indeed, at one stage in the race, Sato passed McLaren's Fernando Alonso, however, it must be admitted that while the team had made obvious progress, the four safety car periods also helped.

Better organised, constantly making changes to the car, the only thing that really hampered progress was the obvious lack of money, a situation not helped by sponsor, Hong Kong oil company, SS United failing to meet its commitments.

As the season progressed, so Super Aguri began to lose touch with the midfield, however, it continued to give its sister team Honda a run for its money, and it was only Jenson Button's fortuitous fifth place in China that prevented a major upset in terms of the Constructors Championship standings.

While it was Sato who scored the points, Davidson was generally the quicker of the pairing, out-qualifying the Japanese driver 10-7. However, the Englishman came off worst in terms of reliability and bad luck, at one point losing out to a Groundhog!

Looking ahead to 2008, there was serious doubt regarding the team's future. At the first major test of the season (Jerez), James Rossiter suffered a component failure. Unfortunately, a replacement could not be found in time for the team to finish the test. Then came a series of cancellations, firstly involving tests and then the launch of the team's 2008 contender.

With just a two weeks remaining before the start of the 2008 season, the team announced that it would not be attending the final pre-season test at Barcelona, though it assured its fans that it would be on the grid in Melbourne. Meanwhile, as speculation mounted, Aguri Suzuki headed off to Japan hoping to secure further backing from Honda, which in turn to led to talk of consortiums seeking to buy the Leafield-based outfit.

On March 10, four days before the first practice session in Melbourne, the team announced that it had reached agreement with the Magma Group regarding the acquisition of the team, and that Magma had in turn reached agreement with Honda regarding technical cooperation and engine supply. The team also confirmed that Sato and Davidson would continue to drive its cars.

While Red Bull bought Minardi and turned it into Toro Rosso, it is Aguri Suzuki's little team which appears to have captured the hearts and imagination of race fans around the world, and has become the outfit that almost everyone has a soft spot for, the natural successor to Minardi. It is to be hoped that the team can resolve its problems and can continue to upset the big guns.


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