Honda junior driver Nobuharu Matsushita will return to the FIA Formula 2 Championship grid in 2019 with reigning Teams’ Championship winners Carlin Motorsport.

The Japanese driver has been groomed by Honda to become the country’s first Formula 1 driver since Kamui Kobayashi and spent three years in its feeder series between 2015-17 after winning the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 2014.

His three seasons in GP2 and F2 with the top-line ART Grand Prix team saw him claim four race wins, but he was largely overshadowed by teammates Stoffel Vandoorne (2015), Sergey Sirotkin (2016) and Alexander Albon (2017).

With a best overall Drivers’ Championship result of sixth in 2017, he failed to earn enough points to qualify for a Formula 1 Super License and Honda instead moved him into the domestic Super Formula Championship. Against a highly-experienced field, he was the series’ best-placed rookie and finished eleventh overall in the standings – well short of the result required to put him back on the F1 radar.

In what must surely be a final roll of the dice from Honda, Matsushita will return to the Formula 2 grid with Carlin. The British outfit won the Teams’ Championship title in its return season of F2 competition in 2018 while McLaren-bound Lando Norris was a title frontrunner for much of the season.

“I am extremely excited to be returning to the FIA Formula 2 Championship where I feel I have unfinished business,” he said.

“Carlin have done a fantastic job this season to take the Teams’ title and second in the Drivers’ standings. We will be working hard from the outset this week to prepare a strong campaign for 2019.

“Thank you to Honda for their continued support and presenting me with such a great opportunity.”

Matsushita is a four-time winner in the GP2/F2 feeder championship, with his last victory coming at the Hungaroring Sprint Race in 2017.

“We are thrilled to welcome Nobu to the team for the 2019 FIA F2 season,” added team boss Trevor Carlin. “He is an exciting driver to watch and we believe he will be a great asset to the team.

“He’s already a race winner in the championship so we know that together we are more than capable of providing a really strong showing next season.

“We’re extremely proud to be working with Honda again and to have been entrusted with such a promising Honda Junior driver.”

The 25-year-old’s return to Formula 2 will see his Honda-backed countrymen Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino move out of the series and into Super Formula.

Honda has moved another of its junior drivers, 18-year-old Yuki Tsunoda, into the new FIA Formula 3 Championship which replaces the GP3 Series on the F1 support bill in 2019. Tsunoda won the Japanese Formula 4 Championship this year and will make his European racing debut with the Jenzer team.

It is expected that Carlin will announce Haas F1 junior Louis Delétraz as Matsushita’s teammate.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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