Battered but unbowed, F1 backmarkers Super Aguri are still expecting to be on the starting grid for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
While puppet-masters Honda suck their teeth and driver Anthony Davidson admits to sleepless nights of worry, it does look as if the team will get at least one more shot at impressing would-be investors with their on-track pluck.
Super Aguri was set up for the 2006 season as a virtual Honda b-team, with Japanese racing hero Aguri Suzuki in charge and Takuma Sato as one of the drivers following the senior team’s decision to drop him from a race seat.
It developed a reputation for outperforming expectations, but has always struggled for funding and is also vulnerable because of regulations preventing the use of customer cars.
Scuderia Toro Rosso, in a similar position, has been put up for sale by Red Bull – while Honda has made it clear it plans to pull back from Super Aguri. The team looked to have found an investor earlier this year, but that deal has collapsed placing its continued participation this year in doubt.
The team sent cars, equipment and personnel to Spain as normal, hoping for the best, but that didn’t allay fears that the end would come this weekend – especially with Honda’s Nick Fry talking of how patient the Japanese auto giant had already been. Rumours reached a climax as the paddock prepared for the first practice sessions, with reports that Honda would veto Super Aguri’s participation in Spain if it didn’t find another source of funding immediately.
But the word now coming out of the Catalunya circuit is that Honda has agreed to let the smaller team race without a deal if necessary, and both Sato and Davidson took part in the first practice sessions on Friday. Unsurprisingly, they were slowest.
Talking about the pressures the situation places on him, Davidson said: “It’s been a really difficult time, from the end of last year through to the start of this year. When we turned up in Australia it was a case of expect the unexpected, and nothing has really changed in my mindset so far this year.
“I’m kind of learning to cope with that because it is difficult, really difficult, it’s a battle, a fight. I’ve had a few sleepless nights, but you have to have fight in you. You have to feel like you belong, are ready and in top shape.
“Whenever there is a level of uncertainty in any walk of life, it is difficult to find that 100 per cent fight that you need. You can tell yourself you are ready, but without testing here and with limited parts at the start of the year and all that stuff, it really does take a lot out of you.
“All we can do is just remain positive. There are a lot of drivers up and down the grid, with much more experience than myself, who would have crumbled by this point.”