Former Grand Prix driver Yuji Ide – the last F1 driver to be stripped of his FIA Superlicense for bad driving – is turning 37 years old today.
Born just north of Tokyo, Ide shot to prominence in his homeland when he made his debut in karting, quickly going on to be a leading racer in the category.
At aged 19, he made the decision to jump straight into Formula 3. Five years on and with scarcely any results with which to prove himself, it was clear his motorsport ambitions were going nowhere.
He was then picked in 1999 to race for Aguri Suzuki’s Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) outfit in the Japanese GT championship. He finished second overall in the GT300 championship, and he returned to the F3 landscape in 2000, finishing a rather distant runner-up in the standings.
He spent a further two years in Formula 3 in both Japan and Europe, before returning home and contesting three seasons in the Formula Nippon championship. He placed this in the standings in 2004, and went one better in 2005 to finish runner-up.
When Aguri Suzuki bit the bullet and formed his own F1 team ahead of the 2006 season, Ide was a surprise call-up, and racked up enough testing miles to be given his FIA Superlicense ahead of the season-opener in Bahrain.
But it was quickly proven that Ide – despite the limitations of his car – was hopelessly out of his depth. In four appearances with the team, he was never close to team-mate Takuma Sato’s pace and suffered countless spins and off-track moments as he explored the
rather narrow limits of his talent.
Frequently holding up much faster drivers in practice and qualifying, the crisis point came at the start of the San Marino Grand Prix, where he tipped Christijan Albers’ Midland car into a series of frightening rolls after he tagged the Dutchman’s car on the opening lap.
He was reprimanded by the stewards, and Suzuki took the sensible decision of demoting him to a test driver role in place of Franck Montagny.
In a bold decision, the FIA made any further outings academic when it stripped Ide of his Superlicense altogether.
Few were sad to see Ide head back to Japan, where he has continued to plough a career in Formula Nippon and the Japanese GT scene, and not very successfully at that…