Scuderia Toro Rosso have announced that Naoki Yamamoto, who is currently a Honda-supported driver competing in the Japanese Super Formula and Super GT series, will drive for the team in Free Practice 1 at the 2019 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix. Yamamoto is one of the top drivers in Japan and is the reigning champion in both Super Formula and Super GT. Yamamoto will replace Pierre Gasly, who will be back behind the wheel for FP2 and the rest of the weekend.
“First of all, I would like to thank Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull and of course Honda for giving me this great opportunity.
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. I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator. 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. 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. It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”
Franz Tost (Team Principal)
“We are very pleased to have a Japanese driver here in Suzuka driving our STR Honda, and we are sure that Naoki san will enjoy the laps in FP1 on one of the greatest race tracks in the world. He is a talented driver, being the reigning champion in Japan's two most important race series, and he also knows the Suzuka circuit very well. Naoki san has spent several European races as part of our team this year, getting to know the engineers he will work with this weekend and he has also spent time in our simulator. I am sure that all the fans in the grandstands will enjoy seeing a Japanese driver taking part in the Japanese Grand Prix weekend."
Katsuhide Moriyama (Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co. Ltd.)
“We are pleased that Japanese fans will now get the opportunity to see Yamamoto, a Honda supported Japanese driver at the wheel of a current F1 car at our own Suzuka circuit, as part of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. I would like to thank Toro Rosso and Red Bull for giving Yamamoto this great opportunity. We hope Naoki makes the most of this opportunity, that he learns from it and that it helps him as a racing driver. We also hope that seeing Yamamoto on track, will serve as an inspiration to young Japanese drivers, so that in the near future, we can once again have Japanese drivers competing in Formula 1.”
Date of birth: July 11, 1988
Place of birth: Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan
Currently leading the Super Formula Championship with Team Dandelion and competing in Super GT with Team Kunimitsu with team-mate Jenson Button
2006 Graduated Suzuka Circuit Racing School with a scholarship for 2007 Formula Challenge Japan
2009 Winner of Japanese Formula 3 Championship
2010 Debut in Formula Nippon (now Super Formula) and in Super GT
2013 and 2018 Super Formula Champion with Team Mugen
2018 Super GT Champion with team-mate Jenson Button for Team Kunimitsu
Total number of Super Formula wins – 7
Total number of Super GT wins – 4