Sakon Yamamoto, 28
He’s one of the few Asian drivers that have been coming up in Formula One, but Sakon Yamamoto has shown that he can fight with the rest of the players on the grid just as hard.
Like most of the Formula One drivers, Sakon started out with karting at the age of 12, and quickly moved his way up the ranks, and joined Formula One at the age of 23. He first drove for the Jordan Formula One team for one weekend during the 2005 season, before moving on to Super Aguri F1 but was plagued with mechanical failures and engine problems. After retiring from four Grand Prix, he managed to score three consecutive finishes.
Moving on to the Spyker F1 team and Renault, he returned to GP2 for two seasons, scoring several wins with a podium finish in Shanghai.
Now at the Hispania Racing, he’s had a run of good and bad luck – but hopefully that will change at the Singapore Grand Prix.
You’ve been with a number of different teams for Formula One but mainly in testing aspects – how different is it to be testing the car and racing it?
I’ve driven for Super Aguri F1 Team in 2006 and Spyker F1 in 2007 as their race driver. And I’ve also driven for ING Renault as their test driver in 2008. I’d already done some races before I joined the HRT F1 Team this year.
How do you feel your season has been going so far?
I joined the team as a test and reserve driver at the beginning of the season because they needed someone with experience. Then the chance to drive for the races came suddenly in Silverstone, and I could show them what I’m capable of. I’m happy to race with them because we’re working very hard together and pushing for better positions as much as we can.
How do you hope to do at the Singapore Grand Prix?
I came to Singapore in 2008 but it’s the first time I’ll be racing. I get really excited thinking about the Singapore race because I know it’s one of the most attractive races in F1.
Do you feel there aren’t as many opportunities for Asian drivers in F1?
One thing I can say is that if you want to be an F1 driver, you have to go to Europe and start racing from a young age. It’s important to be there because you can a lot a lot of things about becoming an F1 driver more than if you stay in Asia. It means there just aren’t as many Asian drivers than European ones. If we can get more drivers to Europe, then you’ll start to see more Asian drivers.
My first race in Europe was in the Go-Karting World Championship when I was 14 years old. Then I moved to Europe for Formula 3 when I was 19.
Off the track, how do you prepare for a race?
I basically train between races to keep my condition fit. Sometimes you also need to relax and de-stress, so I like to stay chilled out by listening to nice music and reading books.
If you hadn’t become a race driver, what would you be doing?
This is a really difficult question for me – I was thinking about it, but I actually can’t imagine if I would be doing anything else.