Why Sato deserves to stay in F1 more than Davidson does

With the news this week that Toro Rosso will evaluate Takuma Sato for a race seat at a test in a couple of weeks, there have been the same gasps of confusion we hear whenever Sato is linked to another team. The usual question people ask is, “Why don’t they choose Anthony Davidson rather than Sato?”

Let us leave aside the reason why Toro Rosso are pursuing Takuma Sato. As F1Wolf pointed out last week, it makes perfect commercial sense for Toro Rosso to do this, so why not?

What I want to focus on is why so many people think that Anthony Davidson is better than Takuma Sato. Seriously, why? Because I for one don’t see it.

There is absolutely no doubt that Anthony Davidson has a very sharp mind. That is evident from his increasingly frequent forays into the commentary box for BBC Radio 5 Live. And I wouldn’t quarrel with the argument that he is an excellent test and development driver.

But does he cut it as a race driver? I am not so sure. For years, Davidson was always the “what if?” man. What if his first two races were in a team better than Minardi? What if his engine didn’t crap out on him not long after his one and only start for long-time employers BAR? What if he wasn’t driving a boat on wheels when he was at Super Aguri?

Fair points all. However, after his first two abortive stints as race driver, he was shown a lot of faith by Super Aguri who raced him for the whole of the 2007 season, and intended for him to race for all of 2008 (albeit in undoubtedly difficult circumstances). This prolonged period as race driver finally gave us the chance to see what a non-race-rusty Davidson was capable of. Did he impress? I’m not so sure.

You can argue that Takuma Sato didn’t impress much either. But that ignores one small fact… He did impress. At least, he impressed those who paid attention. Don’t forget that Sato earned four points for Super Aguri in 2007 while Davidson’s highest race finish all year was 11th, a whole three positions away from scoring even one point. He even only achieved that twice.

Plus, Takuma Sato’s overtaking move on Fernando Alonso in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix was just brilliant. Many drivers would have bottled it. But Taku just kept his foot down and pulled the move off with perfection. It doesn’t exactly fit in with his “crash-happy” image.

Show me anything that Davidson has ever done that even comes close to this. I don’t mean just mean a one-off qualifying lap or “he was running in 12th in the Bumshire Grand Prix until his car broke down”. I mean something that genuinely makes him stand out as a great racing driver. Because I never saw it.

The results don’t lie. Even though the Super Aguri was slow, at least it was not too unreliable. This gives us a good opportunity to compare results between team mates. Out of 9 races which both Davidson and Sato started in 2007, Davidson finished ahead of Sato just twice. Meanwhile, Sato scraped up the only points Super Aguri ever scored.

While Takuma Sato has a reputation for being rather erratic and “crash-happy”, he has had moments of great success. Having scored 44 points throughout his career, he is far and away Japan’s most successful F1 driver ever (and there have been many Japanese F1 drivers). He had a series of excellent results in 2004 including a well-deserved podium in Indianapolis. This was good enough to finish 8th in the Drivers Championship.

When you throw in the fact that Takuma Sato has started almost four times as many Grands Prix as Davidson and therefore has bucketloads of experience, I really scratch my head as to why so many people consider Davidson to be better than Sato. I just don’t get it.

Sato is erratic, yes, but on his day he has the pace and the guts required. Davidson is dependable but anonymous and slow. Am I not right? What am I missing?


  1. Like you I don’t get what people see in Davidson. It was the same in the junior formulae. I never looked at him and thought he was anything special. As Eddie Irvine said of Daamon Hill my enthusiasm for his talent is well under control.

    I don’t think Sato is anything special either. He has a certain level of ability but beyond his ability to pull in sponsors I can’t imagine why anyone would sign him. My guess is Berger is looking for Honda to get involved as a replacement for Red Bull.

  2. Davidson is a bit, well, anonymous. There, but not really there if you know what I mean.

    Whereas Sato has flair and exuberance, and a real track presence.

    I think he has settled down a lot since his kamikaze first days, and I’d really like to see him back in F1. Plus he’s just got such a cheeky grin !

  3. Anyone remembers Spa 2005 and the knock on the helmet Sato received from Schumi 🙂

    Joking aside, I do hope we will get to see Sato again in F1. He had his mad moments like the above mentioned Spa 2005 or the spin and crash early on this season while the only thing Aguri Suzuki asked from his drivers was not to damage the cars … But he is one of the drivers who are not afraid to take chances and pull some outrageous maneuvres – and that is what I miss in F1 these days. The new aero rules and slick tyres combined with Sato’s “madness” may be the right cocktail for us, action thirsty F1 fans 🙂

  4. oh, I forgot to mention Davidson … If there was more room on the grid he should be there. But with the number of seats so limited these days and with no support behing him I can’t see how can he get himself a drive …

    As an Englishman – no offence, but even Button has been forgotten after Hamilton’s arrival – no marketing value there

    As a driver – good, but how would any team benefit more from hiring him than hiring Sato or Buemi or Senna to name the few ? He is sort of anonymous driver like Nick Heidfeld. If Nick losses his seat with BMW, his F1 career would likely be over (not unlike Ralf’s to continue with the comparisons).

    Marketing value to the team – Sato’s value I tried to analyze in my blog post, Senna has the name (and backers), Buemi has the Red Bull backing and seems to be Berger’s darling. What can Davidson offer ? How would for example Toro Rosso benefit from replacing Bourdais (the only Frenchman on the grid, France being the one major European market where Red Bull needs some push) with Davidson).

  5. I don’t really mid who gets the seat, but that Japanese coverage is awesome!

    The beat em up style graphics were the icing on the cake. Wow, can we have this instead of James Allen, please?

  6. Neil, I know. I deliberately hunted down a video of the Japanese coverage because it’s so awesome. I love the enthusiasm of the commentators as well. Even though I can hardly understand a word they are saying, it is clear that they are very excited. And I love the fact that they fall into stunned silence as the reality of what they have just seen sinks in.