Super Aguri team manager Daniel Audetto talks exclusively to Formula1.com about the new squad’s state of affairs two races into their very first Formula One season.
In the middle of 2005, rumours of a mysterious 11th team began to circulate the paddock. By the end of the season it was clear that former driver Aguri Suzuki was the man behind them. But when the 2006 entry list was published, Super Aguri were notable by their absence. However, after some frenzied behind-the-scenes negotiations, they miraculously reappeared - not only on the list, but also on the grid in Bahrain. They may be using four-year-old Arrows chassis, but already Super Aguri have surprised many with their achievements. Audetto, a Formula One veteran with a colourful career including stints at Ferrari, Arrows and Renault, explains their progress so far…
Q: There was a bit of unrest concerning your late entry. What was behind this?
DA: There was very little time between Aguri Suzuki’s announcement that he would be running a team in the 2006 FIA F1 Championship and the FIA application to race entry date, therefore it took us some time to present the necessary bond. However, the delayed acceptance did not slow us down as the funding was in place to make it happen and the team continued to work relentlessly to our aim.
Q: The practical aspects of starting and running a new team are endless. Have you overcome the initial shortcomings in manpower, logistics, facilities etc?
DA: All of the people in key management roles at Super Aguri F1 team had been working on various plans for F1 and Le Mans previously. A number of technical people had already been approached and were in regular contact with us. Aguri contacted me and from there it was relatively easy to bring it all together.
We have all worked together in the past, so we have been able to concentrate on the business of getting us ready to race rather than getting to know each other, which has been a huge bonus. We are situated at the Leafield Technical Facility and as we all know the UK’s motorsports valley is incredibly supportive. You can get just about anything made in a very short amount of time.
Q: What is the size of the team?
DA: We currently employee over 90 people with 14 dedicated Honda personnel who have joined us in Leafield. We also have strong support from Honda in Japan.
Q: How strong is that Honda commitment and in what areas does it manifest itself?
DA: In addition to engine supply Honda are contributing to electronics, software, and engineering support. They have been invaluable in the development of the team, in every aspect. Aguri has had a good relationship with Honda for a long time and they are supporting his teams in other racing categories in Japan and the US.
Q: When do you think you can close the gap to the other teams in terms of pace? At the moment this gap amounts to around five to eight seconds
DA: We hope to be competing with Midland by mid-season. Our aim is to finish in the top 10 for 2006.
Q: Why did you choose to run an inexperienced second driver during this initial team-building phase?
DA: We are a Japanese team led by an ex-Japanese Formula One driver, with Japanese sponsors and Japanese Drivers. Yuji Ide has charted a reputable motorsport career in Japan and we believed that he should be offered the chance to enter his F1 career at this time.
Q: There must be high expectations in Japan. How do you think you can meet them?
DA: We are the first all-Japanese team and support from Japan has been overwhelming. Aguri, Takuma and Yuji all have devoted fan bases in their own right and we already seem to have a dedicated following, as we have seen by the Super Aguri F1 Team flags and banners at the opening two Grands Prix!
Q: Has the team’s distinctive logo any meaning or is it purely decorative?
DA: The team logo symbolizes three elements. Firstly, the ‘S’ - the challenge every team and driver must take to find a circuit’s perfect racing line. Secondly, ‘Fire’ - strength and ability to overpower all. Thirdly, ‘Shuriken’, the Ninja throwing star - representing speed, power and precision.
Q: Obviously Super Aguri has all Japanese sponsors. What are their expectations?
DA: We are the first all-Japanese team and so, at present, I think that the whole of Japan is happy to see us on the grid for this year. We have been clear from the very beginning that we will not be competitive this year - it has taken Aguri only 100 days to pull this team together and get it to the first race in Bahrain. For us to be racing in the 2006 F1 season is in itself an achievement and I believe that everyone shares this view so far.
Q: You have been out of the paddock for some time. What has changed since your Arrows days?
DA: I have been with Renault for the past two years and from the Arrows days I have a very good memory of participating in a winning team who were very professional and technically innovative, with great characters and engineers. It was a wonderful experience and the only major difference was the lack of a manufacturer’s support!