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?