Super Formula: 2018 Rookie Test Round-Up

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Nirei Fukuzumi drove for the Honda-backed Docomo Dandelion Racing Team during the 2018 Super Formula Rookie Test - © Toshikazu Moriyama

Earlier this week, Super Formula held their traditional rookie test at Suzuka on Tuesday 5th & Wednesday 6th December.

The test allowed the teams to assess the qualities of the upcoming drivers alongside the championship’s established stars and saw the SF14 chassis used for the last time before its successor – the SF19 – is formally introduced next year.

Yokohama also provided each driver with a set of an unmarked 2019 specification tyre, which they could use in one session across the two-day test.

The main stories in the build-up to the test were that the 2018 Super Formula Champion Naoki Yamamoto would drive for Dandelion Racing to make way for Macau Grand Prix winner Dan Ticktum at Team Mugen, whilst Nick Cassidy drove for Team TOM’s ahead of a potential move for the 2019 season.

Other notable changes in the paddock saw Japanese Formula Three champion Sho Tsuboi join two-time Super Formula Champion Hiroaki Ishiura at Team Cerumo and Nakajima Racing field Formula 2 race winner Tadasuke Makino and Alex Palou, whereas B-Max Racing ran Harrison Newey and Lucas Auer as part of their relationship with the Motopark outfit.

Day 1 Summary:

The track at Suzuka was damp for the morning session, and within the first half hour the red flag was brought out when British F3 driver Tristan Charpentier (Real Racing) crashed out.

When the session resumed, it was Team Impul’s Ryo Hirakawa who went fastest with a 1:38.210, with team-mate Yuhi Sekiguchi pipped to second spot by Hiroaki Ishiura.

Alex Palou managed to get up to speed immediately, with his fastest time of a 1:38.405 being enough to put him fourth on the timesheets, ahead of Kazuya Oshima (Team Le Mans), Kazuki Nakajima (Team TOM’s) and Naoki Yamamoto, while Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) spun off at the end of the session in eighth.

“I am happy to be able to return to Japan,” said Palou after the morning session, adding: “I feel almost no difference in feeling from [the rookie test] last year. During this season I was driving an F3 car, so when I get into a car like the Super Formula, the horsepower is quite different, so I am still impressed.”

When the afternoon session got underway, the weather improved, and the track was dry and allowed the Yokohama tyres to rubber in, which caused many drivers to set their fastest times at the end of the two hours.

However, some drivers still got caught out, most notably Dan Ticktum, who went off with an hour remaining and lost valuable time.

Red Bull confirmed that Lucas Auer will be driving in Super Formula in 2019 – © Toshikazu Moriyama

Lucas Auer was one of the many drivers who were new to the paddock and managed a respectable 41 Laps in the afternoon with a best time of 1:39.648.

“I am very happy to be here, it is a very impressive and wonderful machine, and Suzuka’s first sector is very busy, and at the same time it’s the corner I feel most wonderful for today,” Auer said in the press conference.

Auer added: “Today we have power and grip on the course, I began getting used to it and tried changing the setup. I would like to take a good rest from tonight and to be able to do better tomorrow. We plan to fight Super Formula with sponsorship from Red Bull. Other things are undecided, but it will be soon.”

But it was Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion Racing) ended the day on top with a 1:36.912, two tenth ahead of Kazuki Nakajima (Team TOM’s) and team-mate Yamamoto in third.

“Since we are still in the test phase, I do not care about the ranking and I think that the content is more important than that,” Fukuzumi said to the media in the paddock.

Backed by both Honda and Red Bull, Nirei Fukuzumi also addressed rumours surrounding his plans for 2019: “I have not decided yet and I will only ask for results regardless of which category I’m going to do.

Nirei Fukuzumi was top of the timesheets after the first day of the Super Formula Rookie Test – © Toshikazu Moriyama

Super Formula Rookie Test; Day 1 Combined Timing Results:

Pos. Car No. Driver (Nationality) Team/Engine Time/Laps
1 6 Nirei Fukuzumi (JPN) Docomo Team Dandelion Racing/Honda 1:36.912/76 Laps
2 36 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Vantelin Team TOM’s/Toyota 1:37.104/72 Laps
3 5 Naoki Yamamoto (JPN) Docomo Team Dandelion Racing/Honda 1:37.475/69 Laps
4 3 Yuji Kunimoto (JPN) Kondo Racing/Toyota 1:37.549/60 Laps
5 18 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) carrozzeria Team KCMG/Toyota 1:37.651/54 Laps
6 64 Alex Palou (ESP) TCS Nakajima Racing/Honda 1:37.722/86 Laps
7 37 Nick Cassidy (NZL) Vantelin Team TOM’s/Toyota 1:37.731/72 Laps
8 19 Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN) Itochu Enex Team Impul/Toyota 1:37.792/68 Laps
9 16 Tomoki Nojiri (JPN) Team Mugen/Honda 1:37.816/69 Laps
10 38 Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN) JMS P.MU/CERUMO·INGING/Toyota 1:38.040/72 Laps
11 65 Tadasuke Makino (JPN) TCS Nakajima Racing 1:38.151/86 Laps
12 20 Ryo Hirakawa (JPN) Itochu Enex Team Impul/Toyota 1:38.210/60 Laps
13 4 Kenta Yamashita (JPN) Kondo Racing/Toyota 1:38.340/64 Laps
14 8* Kazuya Oshima (JPN) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:38.557/32 Laps
15 39 Sho Tsuboi (JPN) JMS P.MU/CERUMO·INGING/Toyota 1:38.710/91 Laps
16 15 Dan Ticktum (GBR) Team Mugen/Honda 1:39.040/66 Laps
17 50* Lucas Auer (DEU) B-Max Racing/Honda 1:39.648/41 Laps
18 7 Ralf Aron (EST) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:39.658/79 Laps
19 8* Charles Milesi (FRA) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:40.010/? Laps
20 17 Tristan Charpentier (FRA) Real Racing/Honda 1:40.376/12+Laps
21 50* Harrison Newey (GBR) B-Max Racing/Honda 1:40.765/34 Laps
Chassis – SF14; Tyres – Yokohama

 

*Drivers shared car over the course of the test day

Day 2 Summary:

The second morning session was extended by 30 minutes by the organizers in anticipation of a potential rain shower in the afternoon.

Once again, track conditions weren’t ideal, and saw many drivers struggle to keep their cars on track.

The first major incident saw Tadasuke Makino crash heavily into the barriers at the ‘S’ curves, which brought the session to a stop.

After the session was restarted, the red flag was brought shortly after, as Kazuki Nakajima spun off at the Turn 11 hairpin with his car beached in the gravel trap.

Tomoki Nojiri set a time of 1:37.297 to go quickest, with very little running taking place within the last half hour due to rainfall arriving at Suzuka.

Tomoki Nojiri was fastest overall on Day Two of the Super Formula Rookie Test – © Toshikazu Moriyama

Rainfall was still present when the afternoon got under away and saw the more experienced decided to sit in the garage.

Despite this, Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest driver with a 1:38.335, whilst Sho Tsuboi was the only driver to complete more than 30 Laps, and discussed how he felt in the car at the end of the test:

“It’s totally different from the car I’ve been driving in [this year]. Running in 1 minute and 38 seconds is an unknown area [for me].”

Tsuboi added: “[Compared to F3] I think there is a big difference, and it is as fast as I can get used to in the beginning. The cornering speeds and power are different, as is the flow of the scenery around me. I think that the speed range is also high in the winter test this time, so I think I have to get used to it.”

2018 Japanese Formula Three Champion Sho Tsuboi is in contention to join Super Formula next season – © Toshikazu Moriyama

Super Formula Rookie Test; Day 2 Combined Timing Results:

Pos. Car No. Driver (Nationality) Team/Engine Time/Laps
1 16 Tomoki Nojiri (JPN) Team Mugen/Honda 1:37.297/47 Laps
2 19 Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN) Itochu Enex Team Impul/Toyota 1:37.329/31 Laps
3 18 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) carrozzeria Team KCMG/Toyota 1:38.398/38 Laps
4 64 Alex Palou (ESP) TCS Nakajima Racing/Honda 1:37.451/44 Laps
5 20 Ryo Hirakawa (JPN) Itochu Enex Team Impul/Toyota 1:37.462/31 Laps
6 6 Nirei Fukuzumi (JPN) Docomo Team Dandelion Racing/Honda 1:37.548/35 Laps
7 38 Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN) JMS P.MU/CERUMO·INGING/Toyota 1:37.633/34 Laps
8 39 Sho Tsuboi (JPN) JMS P.MU/CERUMO·INGING/Toyota 1:37.699/67 Laps
9 36 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Vantelin Team TOM’s/Toyota 1:37.841/39 Laps
10 37 Nick Cassidy (NZL) Vantelin Team TOM’s/Toyota 1:38.135/43 Laps
11 15 Dan Ticktum (GBR) Team Mugen/Honda 1:38.188/44 Laps
12 4 Yuji Kunimoto (JPN) Kondo Racing/Toyota 1:38.714/42 Laps
13 50* Harrison Newey (GBR) B-Max Racing/Honda 1:38.926/33 Laps
14 3 Ralf Aron (EST) Kondo Racing/Toyota 1:39.180/53 Laps
15 8* Charles Milesi (FRA) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:39.212/31 Laps
16 65 Tadasuke Makino (JPN) TCS Nakajima Racing 1:39.297/29 Laps
17 17 Tristan Charpentier (FRA) Real Racing/Honda 1:40.216/29 Laps
18 50* Lucas Auer (DEU) B-Max Racing/Honda 1:40.423/30 Laps
19 7 Arjun Maini (IND) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:40.779/64 Laps
20 5 Naoki Yamamoto (JPN) Docomo Team Dandelion Racing/Honda 1:43.350/13 Laps
21 8* Yoshiaka Katayama (JPN) UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans/Toyota 1:42.225/36 Laps
Chassis – SF14; Tyres – Yokohama

 

*Drivers shared car over the course of the test day

 

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