The second race of the 2019 Super Formula Championship sees the action move to Autopolis.
The 19-turn circuit consists of a variety of medium to high speed corners and is a favourite amongst drivers and fans. In addition, the pit lane is located on the outside, which is a rarity in Japan.
The circuit layout may be recogniseable to Formula One fans, as it hosted the short-lived Pacific Grand Prix in the mid-1990’s.
The last Super Formula race there occurred in 2017 after the cancellation of last year’s event to due poor weather conditions. This saw current Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly claim top honours for Team Mugen.
Tsukakoshi replaces Charpentier
The top story amongst the paddock is that Real Racing have sacked Tristan Charpentier after only one race.
After last year’s partial campaign in British F3, the Frenchman moved up to Super Formula and replaced series veteran Koudai Tsukakoshi.
At aged 18, Charpentier became youngest driver to race in the championship and qualified 15th in Suzuka. However, his race ended after he suffered a heavy crash at 130R.
It was believed that Charpentier had a contract with Real Racing for the remainder of the season, but the two have parted company.
As a result, Tsukakoshi will return to Super Formula this weekend and has raced for the team in Super GT since 2008. The Japanese driver had also spent six years with Real Racing, before he made way for Charpentier.
In addition, the 32-year-old won at Autopolis in 2012 and finished the year as runner-up behind Kazuki Nakajima.
Cassidy in Control
In the season opener, Nick Cassidy claimed victory at Suzuka for Team TOM’s from 12th place.
This was despite experiencing technical issues with his car all weekend and pressure from Naoki Yamamoto and Kenta Yamashita.
“At the Suzuka test and Fuji test, we’ve always been top three or one of the fastest cars,” he said after the race.
“At Suzuka, these two guys beside me [Yamamoto and Kenta Yamashita, who finished third], were also very fast, the three of us I thought were quite strong. And at Fuji our long run pace was I think quite clearly the best.”
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (@TOYOTA_GR) April 21, 2019
Cassidy added: “When we arrived this weekend, we had something very strange going on with my car. I have been more than one second too slow, not a little bit, it’s been really huge.”
“We need to find the problem and get back to our form in testing. And we can be even stronger. So I’m looking forward to that.”
Potential for Palou
Super Formula rookie Alex Palou was another driver to impress those watching in the grandstands.
The Nakajima Racing driver was pipped to Pole by team-mate Tadasuke Makino and got a good start.
Palou recieved a drive-through penalty after his mechanics were still on the grid before the formation lap.
Despite receiving a drive through penalty for this, Palou was second place after the first Safety Car.
However, the Spaniard was forced to retire after a wheel bearing failed on his car and parked up immediately.
Makino also experienced a wheel-related failure and crash out at the Spoon curve.
While speaking to Spanish media, Palou stated that he’ll need more luck if he is to challenge for the championship:
“If things happen that we do not have control like this weekend, it’s imposible to win the championship,” Palou said.
“But what I am sure of and that everybody sees is that we will be fighting for wins, which is the important thing. And then winning the title or not depends on who is lucky and who is looking for more.”
Palou added: “It’s a bit early to think about the title, but we can win it. You always have to think about doing it.”
“What I do think is that we have a good car and we will have it all year and we will fight for race wins.”
Post-race delight for Ticktum
Elsewhere, Kazuya Oshima finished fifth at Suzuka for Team Le Mans. After the race, he recieved a 30 second time penalty for overtaking before start/finish line during one of the restarts.
Harrison Newey was also handed the same penalty for dangerous driving, while Kazuki Nakajima recieved a ¥50,000 for a problematic pit stop.
Subsequently, this evaluated Red Bull junior Dan Ticktum to eighth, who scored his first points in the series.
The second round of the 2019 Super Formula Championship will take place this Sunday at Autopolis.
The 54-lap race is scheduled to start at 2:00pm local time (6am British Standard Time).