Takuma Sato has insisted that he does not 'even want to think about any Plan B' until there is 'absolute zero' chance of him returning to Formula 1 in 2009 - but he is hopeful, following his test with Scuderia Rosso in Barcelona, that he will not have to.

The Japanese star has not raced since the Super Aguri team, with whom he began the 2008 campaign in the top flight, collapsed following only four rounds in May - a situation that left his F1 career, after less than eight seasons and 90 starts, precariously on the rocks.

He did, however, keep his name in the frame by testing for STR at Jerez two months ago - and he convinced to such an extent that he was invited back to try out again for the small Faenza-based squad at the Circuit de Catalunya this week.

"We always knew that we were in a difficult situation all the time," Sato reflected of the demise of SAF1 in an interview with the official Formula 1 website, "but I never expected that it would finish as it did. It was a sad moment, of course, as I had been with the team from day one. It was a small, but very competitive team.

"The financial situation was always very critical as it is so hard to survive as a private team, but you have to accept the whole process, although it's a real shame. It was a sad moment, but I see many ex-Aguri team members in the paddock now with other teams, which shows that we did a good job - otherwise other teams would not have hired them.

"I never gave up; I always hoped. I had no intention whatsoever to retire from F1, and my manager really worked hard to find me a way back into a cockpit. I am really happy. In the last six or seven months I haven't really driven an F1 car, as the September test with Toro Rosso was overshadowed by rain and I could only do three hours in the morning.

"Originally it was not planned for me to test for Toro Rosso in September, but the opportunity came up and as someone wanting to return to F1 the priority is to always be ready. My impression was that the chemistry was good - and that led to this test."

Whilst that first try-out may have been just the briefest of encounters, it was, as the former BAR-Honda ace suggests, nevertheless sufficient to allow Sato to get a good impression of the team - and, given his return invite this week, clearly to make a good impression on them too.

Testing alongside 2008 incumbent S?bastien Bourdais and F1 hopeful and GP2 Series race-winner S?bastien Buemi, the 31-year-old gave an impressive account of himself, comfortably topping the times on the opening day with 17 drivers present and going second-quickest on day two to Sebastian Vettel - and, more significantly still, narrowly faster than either of his two rivals for the seat.

Sato would end the three-day outing a strong third-quickest outright of the 23 drivers in attendance - and he knows that he has now done his best and given 'more than 100 per cent' as the Red Bull 'junior' outfit mulls over the results of the 'shoot-out' and considers its 2009 line-up.

"I really appreciate that Toro Rosso is giving me this opportunity," he underlined. "This one-and-a-half days' testing (in Barcelona) - working with a very focussed team - was very, very enjoyable for me.

"Obviously this is the best car I have ever driven - you could easily see that from the speed. I really enjoyed driving the STR3. Toro Rosso is not one of the big teams, but they made a huge leap forward performance-wise in the second half of the season, and this test gave me a brief insight into how the team works and how it was possible for them to raise their game on such a big scale.

"Now it is up to the team to decide. I am extremely excited with the test and hopefully I can find a way back into Formula 1 in '09. If I told you that I'm not thinking about it all the time then it would be a lie.

"It is pressure as we all compete for an F1 cockpit, but all you can do really is to put in your best performance - maximize what you have to offer, including getting in close contact with the engineers, and simply try to get the best out of your chance. I really hope that I will see them again. There is not much more I can do.

"It is always a matter of what kind of driver a team wants. If they are looking for someone with experience and good racing speed then I have given them more than 100 per cent.

"I don't think that Toro Rosso is in any rush to make a decision, so my guess would be at the end of the year, or even at the beginning of next year. All I can do now is wait, as I have done my job already.

"I was always looking for a possibility to return to F1. If there is absolute zero chance then I have to consider other racing categories - but until that happens I don't even want to think about any Plan B."


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