With the 2019 season of Super Formula due to kick off at Suzuka Circuit this weekend, here’s a little run down on what it is, why you should be watching, and what’s new for 2019.

What is it?

Super Formula is a Japanese open wheel racing series that grew out of the former Japanese Formula 2000 and Formula 3000 championships. The specifications for the cars closely resemble contemporary Formula 1 cars, however the championship itself is closer to Formula 2 or its GP2 Series forebear.

The cars are powered by the same 2-litre turbo-charged engines as Super GT GT500 cars, allowing those manufacturers to participate without needing to develop a new engine. The power output of the engines is somewhere in the 540 hp (405kw) ballpark, which increases with the use of the ‘push to pass’ overtaking aid.

The series, whilst being a national series, is home to a number of foreign drivers, and several drivers from Super Formula have gone onto race in Formula 1, most notably Eddie Irvine who raced for Ferrari in the late 1990s, and Ralf Schumacher, younger brother to Michael who was a multiple race-winner for Williams in the early 2000s.

What should you watch?

With striking similarities to Formula 1 specifications, many drivers from Super Formula have gone onto race in Formula 1 championships, so you never know if you’re watching the next big driver, for example, Pierre Gasly, who was the runner-up in the 2017 season, and now races for Red Bull Racing in F1.

Also, much like Super GT, it’s very similar to European championships, but because it’s Japanese, it’s just better.

2019 Rules & Regulations

The 2019 season of Super Formula brings with it the new Dallara-designed SF19 chassis, a modified version of the preceding SF14 chassis. Its most noticeable difference this year is that all cars are now equipped with the controversial Halo device. Following its successful testing by several teams at a number of races last season, series organisers Japan Race Promotion decided to run the halo device on all cars in the interest of improved driver safety.

Super Formula follows the standardised FIA scoring system, with the first eight finishers awarded points on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 sliding scale. An extra point is awarded to the driver who claims pole position.

Naoki Yamamoto, Team Dandelion Racing Honda - 2019 Super Formula Championship Testing

The new Dallara SF19 chassis is fitted with the Halo cockpit protection system in line with other open-wheel racing championships worldwide. The new design has vastly increased underbody downforce and has proven upwards of two seconds a lap quicker than its predecessor.

The Calendar

The 2019 Super Formula championship includes seven rounds at a variety of famous Japanese circuits, including Suzuka, Fuji and Motegi. Each round will see qualifying take place on the Saturday, with the race on the Sunday.

2019 Japanese Super Formula Championship – Season Calendar
Round Date Circuit
1 20-21 April Suzuka Circuit
2 18-19 May Autopolis
3 22-23 June Sportsland SUGO
4 13-14 July Fuji Speedway
5 17-18 August Twin Ring Motegi
6 28-29 September Okayama International Circuit
7 26-27 October Suzuka Circuit

Drivers, Teams & Machines

This years season of Super Formula features 20 drivers from 11 teams, all racing the SF19 chassis, all rolling on Yokohama tyres.

The off-season saw a number of significant driver changes among the existing field, headlined by reigning champion Naoki Yamamoto moving to Team Dandelion Racing after eight seasons with Team Mugen. Yamamoto performed an effective seat swap with Tomoki Nojiri, who moves from Team Dandelion Racing to Team Mugen.

Red Bull junior driver Dan Ticktum will be hoping to achieve success in the Super Formula Championship in order to earn a Formula 1 Super License. The British driver was runner-up in last year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship and will race for Team Mugen.

The Honda-backed teams sport a number of new faces, with Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino joining Team Dandelion Racing and Nakajima Racing respectively after racing in the FIA Formula 2 Championship last year.

The B-MAX Racing Team will collaborate with the German Motopark outfit, with the joint venture team running the rookie pairing of former DTM racer Lucas Auer and FIA European Formula 3 Championship driver Harrison Newey (the son of famous F1 designer Adrian Newey).

The Toyota-backed teams also saw some driver shuffling, with last year’s series runner-up Nick Cassidy moving from Kondō Racing to Team Tom’s replacing James Rossiter. The New Zealander’s place will be taken by 2016 Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto, who moves from cerumo INGING.

One driver to watch this year will be GP2 Series and Formula 2 Championship veteran Artem Markelov, who will make his Super Formula debut in the #7 Team LeMans line-up.

2019 Japanese Super Formula Championship – Entry List
No. Driver Team
1 Naoki Yamamoto DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing
3 Kenta Yamashita Kondō Racing
4 Yuji Kunimoto Kondō Racing
5 Nireo Fukuzumi DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing
7 Artem Markelov UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans
8 Kazuya Oshima UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans
15 Dan Ticktum Team Mugen
16 Tomoki Nojiri Team Mugen
17 Tristan Charpentier Real Racing
18 Kamui Kobayashi Carrozzeria Team KCMG
19 Yuhi Sekiguchi Itochu Enex Team Impul
20 Ryo Hirakawa Itochu Enex Team Impul
36 Kazuki Nakajima Vantelin Team TOM’S
37 Nick Cassidy Vantelin Team TOM’S
38 Hiroaki Ishiura JMS P.mu/cerumo・INGING
39 Sho Tsuboi JMS P.mu/cerumo・INGING
50 Lucas Auer B-MAX with Motopark
51 Harrison Newey B-MAX with Motopark
64 Álex Palou TCS Nakajima Racing
65 Tadasuke Makino TCS Nakajima Racing

Images via Super Formula Championship and Motorsport.com

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Keegan Bennett

Journalist - Japanese Motorsport at MotorsportM8

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