Sakon Yamamoto is a former Japanese racing driver, who recorded 21 Formula One Grand Prix starts between 2006 and 2010, driving for Super Aguri, Spyker and Hispania Racing Team.
Besides Formula One, he competed in few Japanese racing series (F3, Formula Nippon and Super GT) and two seasons in GP2 Series. His last racing appearance was in June 2015, at season's finale of the inaugural Formula E Championship.
Racing career started in the Suzuka Circuit Racing School
Sakon Yamamoto was born on July 9, 1982, in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, on the main Japanese island Honshu. The young Sakon started his racing career in 1994, driving karts in the Suzuka Circuit Racing School. Year by year, he progressed through the karting competitions and in 2001, he debuted in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship.
In his debut season, Sakon scored five podiums in eighteen races, to finish fourth in the standings, as the best of Japanese drivers. In September, he traveled to the UK to participate in the last two rounds of the British F3 Championship, which was won by Japanese driver Takuma Sato.
In 2002, Yamamoto stayed in Europe and competed in the German Formula 3 Championship, driving for Team Kolles Racing, but without notable results. Formula 3 Euroseries was his next competition in 2003, with the Dutch team Superfund TME. Yamamoto again had no wins and podiums, even he didn't score any point in twenty races.
First Formula 3 victory at Twin Ring Motegi
The return to Japan followed in 2004 and Yamamoto again competed in the Japanese Formula 3, driving for TOM's team. On October 24, in the last championship race, at Twin Ring Motegi, he finally scored his first career's victory. Prior to that, he was on the podium three times. In the final classification, Yamamoto was seventh.
In 2005, Sakon had a double program, competing in the Super GT Championship for TOM's and in the Formula Nippon for Kondo Racing. Driving Toyota Supra, Yamamoto has won one race in the GT championship, at Sportsland Sugo, to finish seventh in the final standings. In the single-seater competition, the highlight of the season was second place at Motegi and he finished 10th in the points.
First Formula One experience at 2005 Japanese Grand Prix
In October 2005, Yamamoto had an opportunity to participate in the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix as a test driver for Jordan. The real job in the Formula One came in 2006, when Yamamoto signed for the Super Aguri F1 team as a third/reserve driver. He participated in four Grand Prix weekends as a Friday's test driver before he had a Formula One debut in the German Grand Prix, on July 30 at Hockenheimring, as a replacement for Franck Montagny. Yamamoto was the slowest qualifier and retired in the race after only one lap, due to a driveshaft failure.
First F1 season for Sakon with Super Aguri
He retired in the next three events (Hungary, Turkey, Italy) and finally finished the race in October at Shanghai International Circuit. He crossed the finish line in the 17th place but was promoted to the 16th place after his teammate Takuma Sato was disqualified after the race. Yamamoto finished 17th at Japanese Grand Prix and 16th at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
During 2006, before he started to race in Formula One, Sakon participated in three races of the Super GT and three races of the Formula Nippon. His best result was third place in the Super GT race at Okayama. He was driving the Nissan Fairlady Z.
Yamamoto joined Spyker in mid-season 2007
For 2007 Formula One season, Yamamoto was replaced by Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri team, but his remained as a test driver. He joined BCN Competition to compete in the GP2 Series. In 11 GP2 races, his best result was ninth place in the feature race at Circuit de Catalunya.
In the mid-season, Christijan Albers left Spyker F1 team and his seat became available. Spyker hired Yamamoto for the remainder of the season, beginning at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August. In his debut with Spyker, Yamamoto crashed out on lap 4. Yamamoto reached the finish line in the next five races, regularly at the end of the field. At Japanese Grand Prix, lots of drivers retired, so Yamamoto was classified as 12th. At the last round of the season, in Brazil, Yamamoto and Giancarlo Fisichella crashed out together after two laps.
GP2 Series season with ART Grand Prix
In 2008, Sakon was invited to work as one of the test drivers for the Renault F1 Team in the public demonstrations, not on the race tracks. In the second part of the season, Yamamoto returned to the GP2 Series, joining ART Grand Prix team. He participated in ten races, finishing best in the fourth place at Hungaroring. Yamamoto competed with ART Grand Prix in the full season of the 2008-2009 GP2 Asia Series, finishing ninth in the points. His best result and the only podium was the third place at Shanghai International Circuit.
One year in the ADAC GT Masters
In 2009, Yamamoto completely changed the racing discipline and joined Team Rosberg in the ADAC GT Masters, to drive #15 Audi R8 LMS alongside Oliver Mayer, Franz Binder and Paulo Bonifacio. With only one point on his account, Yamamoto finished 32nd in the final standings.
Seven Formula 1 races with Hispania Racing Team
One more Formula One arrangement followed in 2010 after the Hispania Racing Team (HRT) hired Yamamoto as the test and reserve driver. In the tenth round of the championship, at the British Grand Prix, Yamamoto jumped into the #21 car as a replacement for Bruno Senna. He finished 20th, a place behind teammate Karun Chandhok. At the next round, in Germany, Yamamoto replaced Chandhok in the #20 car but retired after 19 laps due to gearbox failure.
Sakon kept the seat in the #20 HRT-Cosworth for three more races (Hungary, Belgium, Italy). At the Italian Grand Prix, Yamamoto caused the incident with the team's mechanic, who was injured and taken to a hospital. At Singapore Grand Prix, Yamamoto reported food poisoning, so he was replaced by test driver Christian Klien. Yamamoto returned to the cockpit for two more races, in Japan and Korea, but was again replaced by Klien for the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Test driver for Marussia in 2011
In 2011, Yamamoto was unable to secure a contract with HRT, so he joined the Marussia Virgin Racing as a test driver for the first three events. He was released after that and it was the end of his F1 career, but also of the career in general because he had no any deal for the future.
Guest appearance in the 2015 Formula E season finale
Four years later, in June 2015, Yamamoto was invited by Amlin Aguri to replace Antonio Felix da Costa in the double-header London ePrix, the finale of the inaugural Formula E Championship season.
For the first race, Yamamoto qualified 18th (of 20) but he retired from the race after 15 laps due to problems with the battery. The same problem prevented him from setting the qualifying time for the second race, so he started from the back of the grid. He retired after six laps because an accident.