Top five Asian F1 drivers

After Rio Haryanto was confirmed as Manor’s second driver on Thursday, we remember some other drivers who represented the Asian continent in Formula 1.

Satoru Nakajima

Just in case

Born in 1953, Nakajima made his debut in Formula One in 1987 at the ripe old age of 34 as a team-mate to Ayrton Senna at Lotus.

Honda had originally pushed for Nakajima to replace Nigel Mansell at Williams for the 1986 season, but the Japanese speedster had to wait another year for his debut after that proposed deal fell through.

After spending three seasons at Lotus, he got a move to another of F1’s iconic teams – Tyrrell – where he competed until he retired in 1991.

Considering how late he entered the sport, Nakajima performed credibly, scoring points in each season although he failed to finish on the podium in any of his 74 starts.

He finished in fourth place twice – at Silverstone in 1987 and the Adelaide Street Circuit two years later.
Narain Karthikeyan

Just in case

An inclusion in out list perhaps more for the impact he had on the growth of F1 in India, rather than his actual performances on the track.

Born in 1977 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu Karthikeyan made his debut for Jordan in 2005 but after the team was taken over ahead of the following season, he opted to join Williams as a test driver.

He continued as Williams’ fourth driver – alongside Kazuki Nakajima, the son of Satoru, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the Indian got another gig in F1 when he was signed by HRT.

It’s safe to say Karthikeyan didn’t exactly impress and he was replaced halfway through the season by Daniel Ricciardo, except for the Indian Grand Prix. However, he again signed with the HRT team for the 2012 season, during which he finished 24th, with 0 points.

His fourth place finish at Indianapolis in 2005 was his best result, although that was more due to Michelin’s issues that weekend than his skill

Nevertheless, in the decade since he became India’s first F1 driver, the sport in the country has grown exponentially.

Team Force India has become a regular points scorer and the Indian Grand Prix looks set to become a fixture on the F1 calendar.

Aguri Suzuki

Just in case

Arguably Japan’s most successful racing driver, Suzuki was a fixture on the F1 grid from 1988 to 1995. He was part of five different teams during his eight-year F1 career – Larrousse, Zakspeed, Footwork, Jordan and Ligier.

After failing to pre-qualify for a single race in 1989, his most memorable performance was undoubtedly his podium at Suzuka in 1990, although that race is perhaps more remembered for the first corner, title-deciding collision between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

He scored points on five separate occasions – during a time in which only the top six were awarded any points – and had 64 starts when he retired from the sport in 1995.

That didn’t spell the end of Suzuki in F1, though, since he was the owner of the Super Aguri team between 2006 and 2008.

Kamui Kobayashi

Just in case

A driver known for both the spectacular and the daft, Kobayashi was never far from the action throughout his five-year career in F1.

After making his debut in 2009, his opportunistic, and committed style saw him gain many fans during his time at Toyota, Sauber and Caterham, but his tendency to break later than anyone on the grid often made him look somewhat foolish.

Nevertheless, numerous top 10 finishes and a podium at the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix – albeit somewhat assisted after Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Nico H├╝lkenberg were penalised – suggests a driver with plenty of raw talent, even though his temperament was somewhat questioned.

He failed to score any points for Caterham in the 2014 season and even though he is still only 29 years old, Kobayashi hasn’t been seen in the paddock since.

Takuma Sato

Just in case

Another driver with a particularly aggressive style, Sato’s F1 career spanned from 2002 to 2008.

In Sato’s case, much like it was with Kobayashi, his tendency to position his car on the track where it really shouldn’t be masked his undoubted talent.

He drove for the Jordan, BAR, and Super Aguri teams during his seven-year career in the sport, but will look back the most fondly on the 2004 season.

As team-mate to Jenson Button, Sato helped deliver BAR an impressive second place in the Constructors’ Championship behind Ferrari, highlighted by his third place finish at Indianapolis.

That, unfortunately, was as good as it got for Sato, after he was dumped by BAR in favour of Rubens Barrichello and a fruitless time at Super Aguri.

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