Back in 2013, it was revealed that Honda would revive its engine supply agreement with McLaren starting in 2015, giving Japanese drivers a clear path up the European single-seat ladder for the first time since Honda and Toyota withdrew from Formula 1 in the wake of The global financial crisis of 2008.
F3 graduate Koudai Tsukakoshi had passed a GP2 test in late 2008 before Honda’s bombshell left any choice but to return to Japan, and after Toyota followed suit one year later, GP2 will be free of Japanese representation for four years.
That all changed when Honda’s return to Formula 1 gave the brand the opportunity to put one of its young drivers into a team no less than the ART Grand Prix – who had led Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg to the title – for the 2014 season.
Honda’s six-year absence from Formula 1 created a “lost generation” of local talent who either never had the chance to race in Europe, like now three-time Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto, or had the rug suddenly pulled from under their feet, like Tsukakoshi.
Takuya Aizawa He can also be considered a member of this group. Having debuted in what was then Formula Nippon and the GT500 class of the SUPER GT in 2008, Aizawa He was firmly established as one of Honda’s top local drivers when he received an unexpected call to join McLaren protected Stoffel Vandoorne at ART in GP2.
Aizawa was 29 years old and well established in Super Formula when he got a call to join ART
Enough, this won’t be the first time Aizawa I raced in Europe. In 2003, he had competed in the German Formula Renault 2000 series with the support of ARTA, which was in the process of supporting many Japanese drivers to race abroad (see Katsutomo Kaneishi at DTM and Kosuke Matsuura at Formula Renault V6 Eurocup).
There were no victories, but Aizawa He finished seventh in the standings, and was armed with a knowledge of two tracks – Hockenheim and Red Bull – in his GP2 campaign a decade later. The rest he has to learn from scratch, and from where AizawaThe chance of ART was largely a case of the right place and the wrong time.
“It was hard, especially since I was 30 years old at the time,” Aizawa Remember to talk to Motorsport.com. “It was a good experience but some bad memories. My teammate was Stoffel, and he was very fast, but for me it was tough with the team.
“I had to learn almost every round on the schedule, and we only had 45 minutes of practice every weekend. And then, in practice, you usually use the hard tire, and in the soft tire qualification…it was also hard to adapt. with him.
“In Super Formula the team usually changes the car setup to suit the driver, but in GP2 it’s the other way around, you have to adapt to the car.”
Izawa had to learn most of the tracks on the GP2 schedule from the start with limited practice time
Due to the big flaws that Aizawa In terms of track knowledge, it was no surprise that some of his best showings came at the opening in Bahrain – where he previously tested – and Austria, which was a new GP2 venue as the Red Bull Ring returned to the F1 calendar that year.
The most important event of the year came in the Hungarian Features Race, where a well-timed car was allowed to be parked within the permitted safety car period Aizawa To return to the fourth house from behind the net. This became third place when Stefano Colletti was penalized after the race. retrieved Aizawa: “I couldn’t stand the podium, I just got the trophy then!”
Sochi, also a brand new place for 2014, was the only weekend of the year where Aizawa He honestly challenged the top runners in the qualifiers, and snatched third place on the grid (his best up to this point was 16). But this time the safety car proved to be lagging as he had started with medium tyres, stayed outside and locked on restart, and finally fell home in 20th place after his pit stop.
By this time it was clear that Aizawa He was already looking forward to returning to Japan, having accepted an offer to join Ryo Michigami’s new Drago Corse team in Super Formula and returning to Sugo two weeks before the Sochi GP2 Tour.
Certainly, in 2015 Aizawa He returned to Super Formula and SUPER GT while ART tried both Tsukakoshi and Nobuharu Matsushita in post-season testing in Abu Dhabi before settling on Matsushita, nine years younger than Aizawaas the Vandoorne Fellow in 2015.
Aizawa handed the baton to Matsushita (right), who had enjoyed a more successful GP2/F2 job.
AizawaSuper Formula career never recovered from his corner in GP2. After two years as the frontrunner for Dandelion Racing, winning three races and peaking in third place in the standings, he was placed in Real Racing for his comeback season in 2015, never to win the race again – although he will get his age back dandelion seat in 2017 after Vandoorne vacated him.
Aizawa He finally pulled out of the Super Formula after one season with Nakajima Racing in 2018 and has since focused solely on the SUPER GT, moving from ARTA to Satoru Nakajima’s lineup named Satoru Nakajima in 2020. Now 38 and the biggest statesman in the Honda GT500 lineup, there’s a feeling It won’t be long before the new generation will definitely take over.
“Certainly if I didn’t go to GP2, my career might be different,” he says. Aizawa When asked if he has any regrets about his stay in Europe. “But it’s hard to say if it would have been better or worse! I’m still driving [in SUPER GT]everything is OK.
“I want to stay here as long as possible, but I understand the time will come soon to end my career. That’s why I really want to win a race with [Nakajima] Dunlop. If you have good results, you can stay here.”
Aizawa knows he’s facing pressure to hold on to his Super GT seat in Nakajima