Yamamoto to drive opening practice in Japan

Naoki Yamamoto pic: Toro Rosso website

Japanese driver Naoki Yamamoto is set to take part in opening practice for Toro Rosso at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Yamamoto competes as a Honda supported driver in the Super Formula and Super GT series in Japan, and won last year’s championship in both.

For the last two seasons he’s been co-driver to 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button in Super GT.

The 31-year-old Yamamoto is set to climb into Pierre Gasly’s car for the opening 90 minute session.

“First of all, I would like to thank Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull and of course Honda for giving me this great opportunity,” said Yamamoto.

“I am delighted that I will get to drive a Formula 1 car this weekend, something which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.

“To get this chance at Suzuka, a very important circuit for all Japanese racing drivers, in front of such a big crowd of Japanese fans, will make the experience even more special.

“I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator.

“My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend.”

Team boss Franz Tost added: “We are very pleased to have a Japanese driver here in Suzuka driving our STR Honda, and we are sure that Naoki san will enjoy the laps in FP1 on one of the greatest race tracks in the world.

“He is a talented driver, being the reigning champion in Japan’s two most important race series, and he also knows the Suzuka circuit very well.

“Naoki san has spent several European races as part of our team this year, getting to know the engineers he will work with this weekend and he has also spent time in our simulator.”

Practice for the Japanese Grand Prix gets underway on Friday, with Practice 1 scheduled for noon (AEDT).

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