Super Formula: Sekiguchi Storms to Victory at Autopolis

The podium ceremony after the Super Formula race at Autopolis. Image sourced from Lets Go Racing/Super Formula.

Yuhi Sekiguchi claimed a dominant win at Autopolis for Team Impul, after starting the race with 16th place.

Delayed Qualifying Causes Mixed Grid

Kondo Racing mechanics work on the car of pole sitter Yuji Kunimoto, ahead of the Super Formula race at Autopolis. © Yamaichi Stratos

The weekend got off to a chaotic start, after qualifying was delayed until race day due to poor weather conditions.

As the session was rescheduled in place of FP3, the knockout format was amended to give the drivers 40 minutes to set their fastest lap.

Because of this, qualifying turned into a lottery and saw Yuji Kunimoto claim his second ever Pole Position.

Defending Japanese F3 champion Sho Tsuboi qualified in an impressive second, with Nirei Fukuzumi and Kazuki Nakajima on the second row.

In addition to this, Naoki Yamamoto, Artem Markelov and Harrision Newey all brought out the red flag in separate incidents.

Anarchy in Autopolis

As the race start approached, light rain drops began to fall across the Autopolis race track. When the action got underway, Kunimoto led the start from Tsuboi and Fukuzumi.

Behind them, both Tomoki Nojiri and Harrison Newey stalled on the grid. Consequently, they would lose a lap to the leading pack.

At the end of the opening lap, several drivers made their mandatory tyre changes. Shortly after, the Safety Car was deployed after Dan Ticktum stopped on track.

After he ran wide at Turn 3, Ticktum hit the barrier and damaged the rear suspension. This led to more drivers make their pit stops.

Race leader Kunimoto opted to stay out, as did Yuhi Sekiguchi and Tadasuke Makino with rain clouds developing over the circuit.

Meanwhile, Team Le Mans decided to send out Markelov onto the track. The Russian had failed to make the start after a heavy crash in qualifying.

However, as soon as Markelov left the pits, his front-right wheel loosened and forced him to stop immediately.

Sekiguchi Soars to the top

Yuhi Sekiguchi in the Team Impul garage during qualifying for the Super Formula race at Autopolis. Image sourced from @yuhisekiguchi via Twitter.

At the end of Lap 7, the race restarted and saw Kunimoto retained first place from Sekiguchi, who started 16th. Six laps later, Sekiguchi went around the outside of Kunimoto at Turn 1 to gain the lead.

Sekiguchi then set the fastest lap of the race of a 1:30.777 and pulled a gap of ten seconds on Kunimoto within five laps.

As the race developed, more light rainfall arrived and created unfavourable conditions for those on the medium compound tyres. This was demonstrated by Alex Palou, who breezed past Tsuboi for tenth on Lap 18.

Elsewhere, Kazuya Oshima passed Kenta Yamashita down the inside of Turn 1 for sixth place on Lap 23.

Kunimoto Drops Off

Back at the front, Makino hounded Kunimoto for second place and swept from side-to-side to force a way through.

At the Turn 6, Makino lunged down the inside and nearly caused an incident as they both ran wide. However, the pass was success and he claimed second place.

Kunimoto then became vulnerable, as his tyres began to wear severely, and had to defend third place.

On Lap 31, Yamamoto took the position around the outside of Turn 1. Two laps later, Oshima emulated the same move to take fourth place.

By Lap 37, Kunimoto led a train of several cars which caused them to bunch up in the slower corners.

Palou used this to his advantage and slid past Yamashita at Turn 11 for eighth place. On the other hand, Lucas Auer struggled in the dirty air and lost tenth to Suzuka race winner Nick Cassidy.

Sekiguchi in Cruise Control

Yuhi Sekiguchi celebrates his race win at Autopolis with team boss Hosinho. Image sourced from Lets Go Racing/Super Formula.

With 14 laps remaining, Sekiguchi made his stop to take on the medium tyres and rejoined in second behind Makino. With Makino yet to stop, Sekiguchi managed the eight second gap to Yamamoto.

Four laps from the finish, Makino made his stop and came out in fourth, just in front of Fukuzumi.

This allowed Yuhi Sekiguchi to claim his first win of the 2019 Super Formula season, ahead of Naoki Yamamoto. Both drivers put in great drives and gained 15 positions each.

Kazuya Oshima joined on the podium in third, with Tadasuke Makino holding off Nirei Fukuzumi in fourth place. After Yuji Kunimoto’s late pit stop, Alex Palou ended up sixth, with Kenta Yamashita seventh.

Nick Cassidy claimed the last championship point in eighth, after his car crawled over the finish line.

2019 Super Formula Championship: Round Two, Autopolis – Provisional Results

Pos. Car No. Driver (Nationality), Team (Engine) Time
1 19 Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN), Itochu Enex Team Impul (Toyota) 54 Laps
2 1 Naoki Yamamoto (JPN), Docomo Team Dandelion Racing (Honda) +3.633
3 8 Kazuya Oshima (JPN), SUNOCO Team Le Mans (Toyota) +7.374
4 65 Tadasuke Makino (JPN), TCS Nakajima Racing (Honda) +17.594
5 5 Nirei Fukuzumi (JPN), Docomo Team Dandelion Racing (Honda) +18.739
6 64 Alex Palou (ESP), TCS Nakajima Racing (Honda) +29.782
7 3 Kenta Yamashita (JPN), Kondo Racing (Toyota) +30.774
8 37 Nick Cassidy (NZL), Vantelin Team TOM’s (Toyota) +32.443
9 38 Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), JMS P.MU/CERUMO – INGING (Toyota) +34.058
10 18 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN), carrozzeria Team KCMG (Toyota) +34.577
11 50 Lucas Auer (AUT), Red Bull Team B-Max Motopark (Honda) +35.479
12 39 Sho Tsuboi (JPN), JMS P.MU/CERUMO – INGING (Toyota) +38.130
13 36 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), Vantelin Team TOM’s (Toyota) +38.287
14 20 Ryo Hirakawa (JPN), Itochu Enex Team Impul (Toyota) +48.610
15 17 Koudai Tsukakoshi (JPN), Real Racing (Honda) +56.082
16 4 Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), Kondo Racing (Toyota) +1 Lap
17 51 Harrison Newey (GBR), GOLDEX Team B-Max Motopark (Honda) +1 Lap
18 16 Tomoki Nojiri (JPN), Team Mugen (Honda) +1 Lap
15 Daniel Ticktum (GBR), Team Mugen (Honda) Suspension Damage
7 Artem Markelov (RUS), SUNOCO Team Le Mans (Toyota) Loose Wheel Nut