Takuma Sato is definitely one of the best-known Japanese racing drivers. He made his name driving in Formula 1 and later in IndyCar Series.
He recorded 90 starts in Formula 1 World Champioonship between 2002 and 2008, driving for Jordan, BAR-Honda and Super Aguri. Since 2010, Sato is a regular in the IndyCar Series. His greatest success is a victory at Indianapolis 500 in 2017.
British Formula 3 champion early in a career
Takum Sato was born on January 28, 1977, in Tokyo. After he has graduated in Japanese Formula 3, Sato went to Europe to compete British Formula 3 in which he finished third overall in 2000.
In the following year, he became the series champion after he has won 12 out of 25 races. The same year he was also engaged as the test driver of BAR Honda Formula 1 team. The successful year was completed with triumphs at Macau Grand Prix and Masters of Formula 3 race.
Formula 1 debut with Jordan team
In 2002 Takuma Sato debuted in Formula 1 championship, driving for Honda-powered Jordan F1 team. His rookie season was marked by many retirements after wild driving but in the second half of the season, Sato calmed down a bit and finally earned his first points, taking 5th place in Japanese Grand Prix.
Mixed fortune with BAR team
For the following campaign, Takuma moved to BAR Honda team but only as a test driver. Anyway, he got a chance in the last race of the year in Japan and again scored points after finishing 6th. Honda wanted Japanese driver, so Sato was promoted to full-time in 2004. Unfortunately, the year was full of ups and downs for Takuma, but at the end it was definitely his best season in the most popular racing competition. He managed to score his first and last podium finish in Formula 1 career in the US Grand Prix, earned points in more eight races but also retired from six due to engine failures. With 34 points, Sato took 8th place in the Drivers’ championship and had an important role in the team’s triumph in the Constructors’ championship.
The following year was completely different. In 2005, BAR’s cars were slower and less reliable comparing to the rest of the pack. The team was also disqualified from two races and Sato finished a season at the 23rd position with only one point, scored at Hungaroring.
Poor results after move to Super Aguri
In 2006, Sato signed with Japanese Super Aguri team and stayed there for three years. However, the team was never capable of achieving anything and even Sato’s aggressive driving style couldn’t help. Six retirements and best finish at 10th position in Brazil were the indicators of the team’s abilities.
The things slightly improved in 2007 when Takuma earned points in two races, in Spain and Canada, to finish 17th overall. Super Aguri’s financial troubles caused retirement from Formula 1 after only four races in 2008 and left the Japanese driver unemployed. Later that year, he was one of the candidates to take Sebastian Vettel’s seat in Toro Rosso, but even after solid performances during two test sessions, a contract wasn’t offered to Sato so he closed the doors for Formula 1 driving.
Switch to IndyCar Series
Anyway, Sato didn’t have anything to complain about. Since 2010, he is competing in the IndyCar Series, the competition which he later described as more exciting than Formula 1. He signed a contract with KV racing Technology team but his first year in the US wasn’t brilliant. Takuma managed to score only one Top 10 finish and at the end of the season he was 21st.
His second year with KV Racing was much better after he has found himself at the 13th place overall. Sato now had seven Top 10s and announced that he can move upwards in the following years.
Improvement with RLL Racing
After the 2011 campaign, Sato parted ways with KV Racing and signed a one-year contract with RLL Racing and had some notable results. He finished 3rd in Sao Paulo and 2nd in Edmonton but failed to finish in points in too many races, so at the end of the year, he had to settle for 14th position.
Video - Tribute to Takuma Sato
First Japanese who won an Indy Car race
Move to A.J. Foyt Enterprises in 2013 helped Sato to write his name in the history of IndyCar. He became the first Japanese driver who won the IndyCar race after he triumphed at Long Beach. In the following race in Brazil, he finished 2nd, later in the season finished 7th at Milwaukee while the results in the second half of the season were far below expectations.
With the same team in 2014 and 2015, Sato continued with his yo-yo performances. In 2014 he failed to clinch a single podium spot and took 18th position in the championship while in the following year he flashed at Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix taking 2nd place. However, the results during the most of the season were relatively poor and he found himself in 14th place.
Indianapolis 500 winner in 2017
Takuma Sato stayed with A.J. Foyt enterprises in 2016 but it was another relatively poor season after the Japanese driver finished 17th in the standings. His best result was the 5th position in the races at Long Beach and in Toronto.
The experienced driver moved to Andretti Autosport in 2017 and with the theam he achieved probably the biggest win in his career. Sato won the 101st running of Indianapolis 500 what was only the second victory in his IndyCar career. Sato started from P2, was among the frontrunners during the whole race and, finally, with 10 laps to go, he took the lead and won the prestigious race.
He finished 8th in the final standings of the 2017 IndyCar Series.
Three IndyCar victories with RLL in 2018 and 2019
For the 2018 IndyCar season, he rejoined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to drive the #30 Honda. He scored his third IndyCar victory in the penultimate round at Portland International Raceway. At the end of the season, he was 12th in the points.
In 2019, he climbed to the top podium spot two times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Gateway Raceway, finishing the season ninth in the points.
Video - How Takuma Sato & Andretti Autosport Won The 2017 Indy 500
Guest racer in various competitions
At the same time with his IndyCar duties, Sato appeared as a guest in 2012 and 2013 Super Formula while in 2014 he raced for Amlin Aguri in Beijing e-Prix of the Formula E championship. In 2012 he also participated in the World Endurance Championship, driving in two races for OAK Racing.
Takuma Sato is married to Chiharu and the couple has two children.