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 Sébastien Bourdais and F1 hopeful and GP2 Series race-winner Sébastien 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.