HRT has announced that Sakon Yamamoto – and not the considerably quicker Christian Klien, as we had previously suspected – has been signed as the team’s official test and reserve driver.
Yamamoto’s F1 experience dates back to 2005 as the Friday test driver for the Jordan team at the Japanese Grand Prix. In 2006, he was a mid-season call-up to the Super Aguri team as a replacement to Franck Montagny – while he didn’t disgrace himself, he was definitely out-paced by established team-mate Takuma Sato.
Yamamoto was off the F1 radar at the beginning of the 2007 season, but was called into the Spyker outfit for the Hungarian GP to replace the sacked Christijan Albers, who had been temporarily replaced by Marcus Winkelhock the round before. Despite a prang in his first race for the team, he acquitted himself well and concentrated on bringing the car home. His best finish was a 12th place at the Japanese GP.
In 2008, Sakon joined Renault’s driver development programme, and continued to compete in the GP2 and GP2 Asia series’.
Said Sakon on the announcement: “I am very pleased to be joining the HRT F1 Team. It is fantastic to be part of a new team and I hope I will be able to gather useful data whenever possible on Friday for the race drivers. I have seen how committed everyone at the team is and I feel the same. I will be doing my very best to support Karun and Bruno this year. I’m proud to work with this Spanish team, because Spain is like my second home as I also live in Barcelona."
Team boss Colin Kolles added: "It’s a great pleasure for us to have signed Japanese Sakon Yamamoto as our test driver and reserve race driver for the 2010 season. I am confident that his input into the development of our car will be useful and means another reinforcement of our team as the European season starts in Barcelona. We look forward to welcoming Sakon to the team and working closely with him. His addition makes HRT F1 Team one of the most international teams in the paddock."
The HRT team has been rumoured to have considered Ferrari test driver Giancarlo Fisichella and former BMW Sauber driver Christian Klien for the role – both bring far great experience and, frankly, talent.
Dare I say it, perhaps Yamamoto is bringing a fistful of yen to the project? Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok might have to look over their shoulders…
[Images via GP Update]