Takuma Sato has conceded that he will not be making a swift return to the Formula One grid, despite showing impressive pace in several testing opportunities with the Toro Rosso team.
The former Jordan, BAR, Honda and Super Aguri driver had hoped to join rookie Sebastien Buemi in the Italian squad's line-up, but has now announced that his efforts to raise the finance required to cement his return have come up short, with 2008 incumbent Sebastien Bourdais getting a second season in the top flight instead.
A statement issued by Sato's manager Andrew Gilbert Scott confirmed the news, underlining the Japanese favourite's disappointment at not being able to resume his F1 career after being forced to the sidelines after last year's Spanish Grand Prix.
"I am extremely disappointed that Scuderia Toro Rosso has not chosen Takuma to race for them in 2009," the missive admits, "Taku had showed tremendous speed and commitment during the three tests he did for the team and I believe he proved to be the faster driver.
"Unfortunately however, the team made no secret about the fact that they would need the driver to bring a substantial amount of funding to the team to secure the drive. We have all been working very hard and have been able to attract a significant amount of sponsorship to support the team but, unfortunately, it was obviously not enough to secure the drive.
"We would like to thank our loyal and new sponsors, and also the many Takuma fans for everything they did to try to help secure the Toro Rosso drive for Taku.
"We will now be looking ahead for the next opportunity."
Sato's popularity in Japan had been seen as a potential winner in his attempts to return to the fray, as had the opportunity for Toro Rosso backer Red Bull to increase its presence in the Oriental market, but Bourdais' attempts to secure sponsorship ensured his return to the Faenza squad after making improvements in form towards the end of 2008.
With no obvious openings available, unless any phoenix from the ashes of Honda comes calling, Sato admits that he was now unsure of his next move.
“I am not sure what my future holds, but I will be discussing with my manager what our next steps should be," he conceded, "I strongly feel that I have unfinished business in F1 and that I still have a lot to give. I am determined to stay in top level motorsport and I will be fully focused on making a return to F1 as long as any opportunity is there.
"I want to thank all my supporters who have been absolutely fantastic with their loyalty, I will always remember these fantastic relationships we have built and hope we can one day repay this support.”