Super Formula: 2019 Season Preview

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The 2019 Super Formula Championship Driver Line-Up. Infographic sourced from @shimo_tofu (Twitter).

The 2019 Super Formula Championship saw a lot of activity take place during the winter break.

The championship will be introducing a new car in the form of the Dallara SF19 chassis.

Replacing the Dallara SF14, the SF19 uses a greater exploitation of downforce generated from underneath the car.

This shifts the balance from the wings to try and increase overtaking opportunities.

Furthermore, the new car also features the introduction of the halo implemented by most FIA-sanctioned single seater categories last year.

On top of this, the push to pass system used in IndyCar has been implemented, as well as new rain lights.

Speaking at the car’s official launch last July, Dallara’s Program Manager Fabio Grippa discussed the influences behind the new design:

“When designing the new SF19 car, we had the mind of pure racing spirit of the Japanese country, and to stick to this pure racing approach.”

“We had the target to lower the weight of the car, while keeping the level of safety in motorsport today.”

The drivers and teams got their first taste of the brand new Dallara SF19 during pre-season last month. Image Sourced from superformula.net

“Because of the new regulations, the weight of the racing cars [in Super Formula] over the last few years has significantly increased.,” Fabio added.

“[The new SF19] will be a few kilograms lighter than the SF14, and it will be around 80 kilograms lighter than a Formula One car.”

A glance at this season’s driver line-up suggests that we’re set to have another competitive season.

The inclusion of four Super Formula champions – including last year’s winner Naoki Yamamoto – and seven rookies should keep us on our toes from start to finish.

So, with no further ado, here is the preview for the 2019 Super Formula Championship.

Docomo Team Dandelion Racing

Founded: 1989 Drivers’ Championships: 1 – 2004 Teams’ Championships: 1 – 2012

2019 Line-up: No.1 Naoki Yamamoto (JPN), 2013 & 2018 Drivers’ Champion & No.5 Nirei Fukuzumi (JPN)

Naoki Yamamoto will be looking to mount a strong title defence with Dandelion Racing in 2019. Image Sourced from MUGEN via Pinterest.

After finishing fifth in the 2018 Teams’ Championship, Dandelion Racing have opted for a new driver line-up in 2019.

After Nobuharu Matsushita’s departure to Formula 2, many were surprised to see Tomoki Nojiri and Naoki Yamamoto swap teams.

Speaking to motorsport.com in January, Yamamoto explained that the move was motivated by his willingness to master other than Suzuka.

Yamamoto, who also won the Super GT championship last year with Jenson Button, stated that his inability to do so was ‘disappointing.’

To date, five of Yamamoto’s six race wins have come at the famous figure of eight circuit.

His 2019 team-mate will be Nirei Fukuzumi, one of two Honda academy drivers on the grid.

Fukuzumi made his debuted with Team Mugen last season, alongside his Formula 2 program, and also receives backing from Red Bull.

Kondo Racing

Founded: 2000 Drivers’ Championships: 0 Teams’ Championships: 1 – 2018

2019 Line-up: No.3 Kenta Yamashita (JPN) & No.4 Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), 2016 Drivers’ Champion

Kondo Racing’s Kenta Yamashita (left) in the team garage during the 2018 Super Formula Rookie Test at Suzuka Circuit. Image Sourced from kentayamashita.jp

Before the start of last season, Kondo Racing had gone ten seasons without a race win.

With that said, they achieved their most successful season to date and won first Teams’ Championship in Super Formula.

Nick Cassidy’s performances caught the attention of Team TOM’s and duly joined them for ahead of the new season.

To fill the void, team owner Masahiko Kondo has replaced him with 2016 Super Formula champion, Yuji Kunimoto.

The last two seasons have been difficult for Kunimoto, with bad luck hampering his results.

Now, Kunimoto has a chance to start afresh and rebuild his reputation.

Alongside him will be the reliable Kenta Yamashita, who achieved his best finish to date of third place at the 2018 season finale at Suzuka.

UOMO Sunoco Team Le Mans

Founded: 1967 Drivers’ Championships: 3 – 1979*, 1996, 1998 Teams’ Championships’: 2 – 1996, 1998

2019 Line-up: No.7 Artem Markelov (RUS) & No.8 Kazuya Oshima (JPN)

Artem Markelov will be one of the dark horses in Super Formula this season. Image Sourced from Yahoo Sports.

After Team Le Mans confirmed that Kazuya Oshima would be maintained for 2019, many questioned who would be his team-mate.

Charles Milesi, Arjun Maini and Yoshiaka Katayama were all given a chance to drive for the team during the annual Rookie Test last December.

Furthermore, Formula 2 driver Artem Markelov was reported to be in discussions with Team Le Mans for a race seat.

The latter proved to be true, as Markelov was announced as the second driver and will become the first Russian to compete in the series.

Markelov’s stock adds to Super Formula’s credibility as a viable alternate to F2, having he has spent five seasons there but being unable to secure a Formula 1 seat.

His reputation as an aggressive, flat out racer will also add another layer of intrigue to the title hunt.

Team Mugen

Founded: 1973 Drivers’ Championships: 2 – 2013, 2018 Teams’ Championships: 0

2019 Line-up: No.15 Dan Ticktum (GBR) & No.16 Tomoki Nojiri (JPN)

Red Bull junior Dan Ticktum will be wary that a good season with Team Mugen could land him a FIA Super Licence, and a subsequent F1 seat. Image sourced from Autosport Web Japan.

2018 saw Honda factory’s outfit Team Mugen win their second Drivers’ title at the hands of Naoki Yamamoto.

So, when Yamamoto switched seats with Tomoki Nojiri, it caused shock within the Super Formula paddock.

Team Mugen missed out on the Teams’ Championship, as driver instability and bad luck befell the second car.

The likes of Nirei Fukuzumi, Dan Ticktum and Sena Sakaguchi all failed to score a point last season.

Nojiri has proven to be a consistent driver and is a valuable asset to Team Mugen, as he was one of the first drivers to test the new SF19 chassis last summer.

Alongside him is Red Bull junior Dan Ticktum, who will compete to try and secure a FIA Super Licence.

Red Bull have made it no secret that they want Ticktum at Toro Rosso as soon as possible.

As a result, Ticktum entered the Asian Formula Three Winter Series, only for the championship to lose its eligibility for FIA Super Licence points.

Subsequently, there is now more pressure on the shoulders of Ticktum to be competitive.

He’ll surely look to Pierre Gasly as inspiration, where a couple of wins and podiums will do the Brit no harm indeed.

Real Racing

Founded: 2003 Drivers’ Championships: 0 Teams’ Championships: 0

2019 Line-up: No.17 Tristan Charpentier (FRA)

Tristan Charpentier during the pre-season test at Suzuka for Real Racing. © Ryuji Hirano/Autosport Web Japan.

Unsurprisingly, Real Racing has hovered towards the tail end of the grid as a one-car entry.

2018 saw them finish tenth in the Teams’ Championships with just six points and released Super Formula veteran Koudai Tsukakoshi.

In his place will be 18-year-old Tristan Charpentier, who arrives on the scene with little following.

The Frenchman will be the youngest driver in the series’ history and has some respectable results on his CV.

Charpentier finished fifth in the 2016 French Formula 4 Championship and also claimed two podium finishes in the 2018 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship.

However, Charpentier struggled to get up to speed during the first pre-season test at Suzuka.

As a result, Tsukakoshi was brought back for the second test at Fuji Speedway and helped Charpentier reduce the deficit.

Whether he can keep up with the pack is up for debate.

Carrozzeria Team KCMG

Founded: 2007 Drivers’ Championships: 0 Teams’ Championships: 0

2019 Line-up: No.18 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN)

Kamui Kobayashi will be preparing himself for another Super Formula campaign with KCMG in 2019. © Mamoru Atsuta.

KCMG first entered the Super Formula Championship in 2010 and have always been a one-car entry since their debut.

During the off-season, rumours began to spread that KCMG were considering a two-car entry for 2019. However, these plans fell to the wayside.

Instead, former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi will enter his third season with the team, after nearly won the shorten wet race at Okayama last year.

Despite his talents, Kobayashi’s maiden win the series still eludes him and will hope to break his duct this season.

Itochu Enex Team Impul

Founded: 1980 Drivers’ Championships: 11 – 1987*, 1990*, 1993*, 1995*, 2001, 2003, 2005-2008, 2010 Teams’ Championships: 7 – 2003-2008, 2010

2019 Line-up: No.19 Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN) & No.20 Ryo Hirakawa (JPN)

Yuhi Sekiguchi will be hoping he can end Team Impul’s championship drought in Super Formula this season. Image Sourced from racinginjapan.wordpress.com

Fans of Gran Turismo will be familiar with the Impul name, as they run the famous Calsonic Nissan entry in Super GT.

Team Impul are also the most successful team on the current grid, with a total of 18 championships.

Despite their glittering record, they’ve failed win a title in Japan’s premier racing series since 2010.

Team owner and six-time champion Kazuyoshi Hoshino believes that Yuhi Sekiguchi and Ryo Kirakawa can bring an end to their championship drought.

Both drivers demonstrated promise last season, with Sekiguchi claiming their only win of the season at Okayama.

But a lack of consistency across the year prevented them from coming close to mounting a title challenge.

Without a shadow of a doubt, that is something that Mr. Hoshino will want to change.

Vantelin Team TOM’s

Founded: 1974 Drivers’ Championships: 3 – 2011-2012, 2014 Teams’ Championships: 4 – 2011, 2013-2015

2019 Line-up: No.36 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), 2012 & 2014 Drivers’ Champion & No.37 Nick Cassidy (NZL)

Kazuki Nakajima (pictured at Suzuka in 2017) is one of the most experienced drivers on the current Super Formula grid. Image Sourced from superformula.net

Team TOM’s joined Super Formula in 2006 and have enjoyed championship victories with compatriot Kazuki Nakajima and Germany’s Andre Lotterer.

2019 will be Nakajima’s ninth season with Team TOM’s and at aged 34, many have speculated as to when he will call it a day.

His team-mate, Nick Cassidy, impressed many with his performances across last season to finish as runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship.

Having also won the Super GT title for Toyota’s premier brand Lexus in 2017, Team TOM’s signed the Kiwi for 2019.

This has led some speculate that Cassidy is being groomed to become the No.1 driver in the future.

Given Nakajima’s presence in Japan, this will be a great way for Toyota to monitor Cassidy’s progress this season and determine who can spearhead their resurgence.

JMS P.MU/Cerumo INGING

Founded: 1981 Drivers’ Championships: 3 – 2015-2017

Teams’ Championships: 2 – 2016-2017

2019 Line-up: No.38 Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), 2015 & 2017 Drivers’ Champion & No.39 Sho Tsuboi (JPN)

JMS P.MU/Cerumo INGING driver Hiroaki Ishiura celebrating his win at Twin Ring Motegi in 2018. Image Sourced from formulanippon-fr.com

Having claimed three successive Drivers’ Championships, failure to continue this success in 2018 was a disappointment to say the least for Cerumo.

Further loss of form and consistency saw Yuji Kunimoto leave the team and seek a fresh start with Kondo Racing.

Hiroaki Ishiura has be retained for the forthcoming season having finished third in the standings.

Alongside his racing commitments in Japan, the two-time champion has also been promoted to a management role within Team Cerumo.

Alongside him will be Japanese Formula Three Champion Sho Tsuboi, who is highly rated by Toyota.

Tsuboi won the title for Team TOM’s Formula 3 outfit last year, with 17 wins across 19 races.

Having been so dominant in 2018, Tsuboi will be expected to give Ishiura a run for his money

GOLDEX Team B-Max Motopark

Founded: 2010 Drivers’ Championships: 0 Teams’ Championships: 0

2019 Line-up: No.50 Lucas Auer (AUT) & No.51 Harrison Newey (GBR)

Lucas Auer the latest addition to the Red Bull Junior Team and will be expected to challenge at the front. © Ryuji Hirano/Autosport Web Japan.

Failure to score a point in 2018 saw B-Max Racing finish dead last in the Teams’ Championship.

However, the new season has seen the youngest team in the Super Formula paddock make several changes.

The Japanese team have partnered up with Formula 3 team Motopark, in a technical relationship which is designed to be beneficial to both parties.

On top of this, B-Max have entered two cars for the first time since joining the championship.

Red Bull junior Lucas Auer will make his debut, having finished third in the 2019 Toyota Racing Series.

Harrison Newey will be in the second car, which will run the livery of their new title sponsor Goldex.

Harrison Newey during last month’s pre-season test at Suzuka for GOLDEX Team B-Max Motopark. © Takashi Ogasawara/Autosport Web Japan.

TCS Nakajima Racing

Founded: 1983 Drivers’ Championships: 4 – 1999-2000, 2002, 2009 Teams’ Championships: 4 – 1999-2000, 2002, 2009

2019 Line-up: No.64 Alex Palou (ESP) & No.65 Tadasuke Makino (JPN)

Alex Palou’s 1:35.904 set a lap record at Suzuka during pre-season testing. © Ryuji Hirano/Autosport Web Japan.

Formed by ex-Formula 1 driver and five-time champion Satoru Nakajima, Nakajima Racing are one of the sport’s most successful teams.

Between 1999 and 2002, they experienced a period of dominance, as Tom Coronel, Toranosuke ‘Tora’ Takagi and Ralph Firman all won the Drivers’ title.

Since then, Nakajima Racing have slowly slipped towards the midfield after their most recent triumph with Loïc Duval in 2009,

But as the classic saying goes, it sometimes better to be out with the old and in with the new.

Takuya Izawa and Narain Karthikeyan have both left the team, with Spaniard Alex Palou taking up a seat.

Palou previously raced in Japanese F3 and also tested for Nakajima Racing on two separate occasions.

On top of this, Palou has emerged as a title contender, after he set a new lap record at Suzuka in pre-season.

Honda’s second academy driver Tadasuke Makino will be joining him, he won the Formula 2 sprint race at Monza.

*These Drivers’ Championships were won before the start of the modern era when the series was first branded Formula Nippon in 1996

Pre-Season Round-Up

The official Super Formula tests took place last month at Suzuka and Fuji Speedway respectively.

Kondo’s Kenta Yamahshita was the only driver to finish in the top three for all combined day results in pre-season.

The second test at Fuji demonstrated that the season could be as competitive as it has been in recent years.

All 20 drivers were within 1.5 seconds of each other and shows that the championship could go down to the wire once again.

2019 Super Formula Schedule

Round Three of the 2019 Super Formula Championship will take place at Sportsland SUGO on June 23. Image sourced from superformula.net

The 2019 calendar will consist of seven races, with the season starting at Honda’s Suzuka on April 21.

The Super Formula paddock will then travel to the much-favoured tracks, Autopolis in May and Sportsland SUGO in June.

The race at the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway on July 14 will signal the mid-point of the championship.

This will be followed by another Honda track, Twin Ring Motegi, in August and the Okayama International Circuit in September.

The season will conclude where it started, with the finale taking place at Suzuka on October 27.

Round Venue Date
1 Suzuka Circuit 20-21 April 2019
2 Autopolis 18-19 May 2019
3 Sportsland SUGO 22-23 June 2019
4 Fuji Speedway 13-14 July 2019
5 Twin Ring Motegi 17-18 August 2019
6 Okayama International Circuit 28-29 September 2019
7 Suzuka Circuit 26-27 October 2019

 

Once again, motorsport.tv will be streaming all of the Super Formula races live this season.

Alternatively, highlights of all the action will be also available on the Official Super Formula YouTube channel.

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