Sato out of F1 ride, eyes A1GP

UPDATE #3 Rumor has it that Sato may accept a ride in the A1GP series starting with the Portugal race. This does not mean he is out of a F1 ride forever, but we doubt he would risk his career image in a lower formula if he thought he had a chance for landing an F1 ride next year with another team. Yes, A1GP is largely a winter series, but what does Sato gain? If he wins he's expected to because he comes from F1. If he loses, his career may be tarnished beyond repair.

09/28/05 The latest rumor in F1 circles is that unwanted BAR driver Takuma Sato's grand prix career may be rescued by Red Bull.

According to a convoluted paddock whisper, Honda – facing a backlash at the upcoming Japanese grand prix for dumping the national hero – has been in talks with the energy drink brand about the 28-year-old driver and engines.

The speculation says a deal could be done whereby Sato is placed at Red Bull Rookie (Minardi) in 2006 ahead of a subsidized customer Honda V8 engine contract for 2007 and beyond.

Such a rumor should be treated with skepticism, though, and assessed for its timing as it might help alleviate some of the anti- BAR-Honda anger at the Sato axing.

09/27/05 Takuma Sato is out of a job in F1 next year and he needs a large sum of money to get a drive with the Jordan team. The price at the moment is up around $10m and may go higher as drivers scramble to get one of the two seats left in F1. Sato's problem is that throughout his career he has been close to Honda and the Toyota F1 people say they have no interest in him and will not help to fund a drive with Jordan. And it is hard to imagine Honda paying for a driver to race a Toyota-engined car.

That leaves Red Bull and it is hard to imagine that Sato will cut across the top of the Red Bull Young Driver program and take a ride instead of Christian Klien and Scott Speed, the two men expected to be seen in the rebadged Minardi team next year. We expect to see David Coulthard and Tonio Liuzzi in the main Red Bull team and Neel Jani named as the test driver for the squad although we have also heard that Robert Doornbos may be in with a chance of a job thanks to his strong links with Arden boss Christian Horner.

Sato might have some chance of a job as test driver but is more likely to stay in F1 if there is a secondary McLaren team with a Japanese backer in 2007.

09/25/05 Takuma Sato's F1 racing career could be saved by the very team that gave him his debut — Jordan. Although now owned by a different mob, Jordan – to be renamed 'Midland' for 2006 – has revealed talks with BAR-Honda's dumped Japanese driver.

''It's not a question of money he has to bring,'' team managing director Colin Kolles said in Brazil, ''it's a question of the sponsorship we will be putting in place.''

Kolles added that, for example, British cigarette brand Benson & Hedges is pushing hard for Anthony Davidson.

The Sao Paulo paddock, however, suggested that Sato and current Minardi pilot Christian Albers is a more likely Midland lineup. Signing Sato would likely have the moral backing of Midland's Japanese engine supplier Toyota, particularly as arch rival Honda is facing a backlash for letting Sato go.

Toyota's formula one president John Howett also told Reuters: ''If they take him, it's purely their decision.''

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