|Despite doing fairly well in his first F1 outing, Naoki Yamamoto's check is not big enough to buy a Toro Rosso seat yet|
UPDATE (GMM) Naoki Yamamoto "should be in Formula 1".
That is the view of 2009 world champion Jenson Button, referring to the Japanese driver who got his first taste of a F1 car at Suzuka last Friday.
The 31-year-old is Button's teammate in the Japanese Super GT series. He is also poised to be this year's Super Formula champion, having won that championship in 2013 and 2018 as well.
Yamamoto is strongly backed by Honda, Red Bull and Toro Rosso's works partner in Formula 1. Yamamoto made his F1 debut in Friday free practice at Suzuka, taking over from Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly.
He was only a tenth off Daniil Kvyat's pace.
"He's had a very successful career racing over here and with Jenson in the GTs," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky.
Technically, Yamamoto should not have been allowed to drive at Suzuka. He does not possess a Friday driver Super License, as he has not completed 300km of prior running in an F1 car.
F1 race director Michael Masi explained: "I wouldn't call it permission, but it was a decision of the World Motor Sport Council last week.
"Even if he doesn't take part in the final round of the Super Formula series, he will have enough points to qualify for a fully fledged Super License," he said.
At any rate, Yamamoto is not a candidate to race for Toro Rosso next year. Horner said he "doesn't fit the criteria at the moment" for a place in the Red Bull program.
"But he's certainly worth giving a run and having a look at," he added.
10/12/19 Christian Horner has said that Naoki Yamamoto is not being considered for a race seat at either Red Bull or Toro Rosso in the near future.
The Japanese driver drove a Formula 1 car for the first time ever in FP1 at Suzuka and performed impressively, going less than a tenth slower than Daniil Kvyat in the same car, although he was on the softer, quicker tire to the Russian.
“He’s done a very good job for his first session in a Formula 1 car," Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“I think he acquitted himself extremely well. He’s had a very successful career racing over here and with Jenson [Button] in the GTs.
Yamamoto is the current champion of Japan’s Super Formula and also won the Super GT Championship alongside Jenson Button, who speaks highly of the 31-year old.
Importantly, he now has enough superlicense points to allow him to drive in Formula 1, leading to speculation that he’s being considered for a seat in one of the Honda supplied teams for next season, but the Red Bull team principal says this is not the case.
“It’s a circuit he knows extremely well, he’s had a very successful career racing over here with Jenson in the GTs," Horner added. “He doesn’t fit the criteria [for a race seat at Red Bull or Toro Rosso – meaning his check is not big enough] at the moment, but he’s certainly worth giving a run and having a look at today."