Having scored my first Super Formula podium finish at the previous round in Okayama, I headed to Suzuka for the final race of my rookie season full of optimism. It was actually a case of going back to a track for that I’d already raced at with a Super Formula car the first time, and that was a real boost.
But free practice didn’t quite go to plan, which started with a very wet Friday. We ended up doing about three laps, with most people deciding not to run at all due to the horrible conditions. We knew the rest of the weekend was going to be dry, so there was no point running that much in the wet.
In Free Practice 2 on Saturday morning, I did a quick short run before heading back. Unfortunately, on my third flying lap of the session, I suffered a puncture at 130 R – not the ideal place to go off!
It ended up with me going pretty hard into the wall and finally coming to a stop upside-down. Thankfully I was okay, and the B-MAX Racing with Motopark guys did a great job in getting the car back and ready for qualifying around four hours later. We didn’t have time to properly set it up on the flat-patch for the start of qualifying, so it was a bit of an unknown.
“We hadn’t been able to make any setup changes or anything, having only had a couple of laps in wet-dry practice on a green and slightly damp track, so it was far from ideal preparation going into qualifying. I ended up P9, which I was actually a bit disappointed with because I firmly believe that we had the car to be on the front row. That said, with everything that had happened in practice, it was a decent grid start.
I was quite happy with the car in FP3 on Sunday morning. We were lacking a bit of pace, but balance-wise, I was pretty happy. Tyre wear was looking quite high so the team gambled on trying something a bit different. Unfortunately, it didn’t really pay off for the race, so our pace was disappointing and we then took another gamble, on doing the entire race without refuelling, which ultimately led to me running out of fuel. So all in all, it was a very disappointing end to the 2019 season.
Looking back on my debut Super Formula season, I learned a lot, but it was also a very frustrating season. The podium was a nice boost for everyone and it was good to walk away with that at least.
So what next? That’s a very good question.
I’d like to do Super Formula again, or return to sports cars. It’s now a case of working hard in the coming weeks to sort my 2020 drive out.