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Ranked! The Japanese drivers to compete in Formula 1

Ranked! The Japanese drivers to compete in Formula 1


Ranked! The Japanese drivers to compete in Formula 1

Ranked! The Japanese drivers to compete in Formula 1

Japan may not be the first country that springs to mind when you think about the origins of Formula 1 drivers, but the 'Land of the Rising Sun' has produced far more than you would imagine.

Out of the 20 to have raced in the sport, just nine have held full-time seats ahead of Yuki Tsunoda's arrival at AlphaTauri.

In the late 1970s, a series of Japanese drivers entered their home grand prix in one-off appearances. This was not uncommon in the era with F1 machinery often readily available to gentleman racers who had the money to pay their way onto the grid.

For this list, the modern F1 points scoring system has been used to determine where each of the nine previous full-time Japanese drivers rank amongst each other.

Despite being contracted to Super Aguri in 2006, Yuji Ide will not feature on the list as he was dropped from the team after just four races after the FIA stripped him of his super licence due to a mounting number of on-track indiscretions.

And even though Sakon Yamamoto started on 21 occasions, he is also ineligible for this list as he only made appearances during the closing stages of the 2006, '07 and '10 seasons.

9 - Taki Inoue

Taki Inoue made his F1 debut with Simtek in the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix but retired after only three laps after spinning off the track. Unfortunately, this result was not going to be a one-off.

Inoue was signed by Footwork for the '95 season but he retired from nine of the first 10 races. These failures to finish were, however, not his fault alone with the DNFs more often than not the result of mechanical problems.

Failing to score a point, Inoue was not classified in the final championship standings, although the modern scoring system would have afforded him six points after a ninth-place finish in the Canadian GP and a career-best eighth in the Italian GP, both in 1995.

8 - Toranosuke Takagi

Toranosuke Takagi secured an F1 seat for the first time in 1998 with a Tyrrell team that was a shell of what was once a great outfit.

A pair of ninth-place finishes failed to impact the scoreboard, with points only awarded to the top six at the time and, like Inoue, Takagi was not classified at the end of the year.

For 1999, however, Takagi joined Arrows and the season started off well. Finishing seventh and eighth in the opening two races, Takagi and Arrows seemed to be a combination with the potential to break into the top six, but this failed to materialise.

Across the remaining 14 races, Takagi would finish only twice more, retired from the final eight races.

Returning to Japan in 2000, Takagi became Formula Nippon champion - the series now known as Super Formula - winning eight of 10 races.

The modern scoring lifts his F1 points haul from zero to 14.

7 - Kazuki Nakajima

If other championships and titles were being taken into account, Kazuki Nakajima would be far higher on this list as, after ending his two-year stint in F1, the driver has gone on to become a two-time Formula Nippon/Super Formula champion and three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner.

Nakajima was Williams test driver in 2007 and made his F1 debut in the Brazilian GP of that year. Finishing the season-finale 10th, the signs looked good, especially as Williams had ended the year fourth in the constructors' championship.

The promise never materialised for Nakajima though, although through no fault of his own. Williams suffered a slump, dropping to eighth in the standings, despite a strong start to the Japanese driver's season.

An aggressive set of aerodynamic regulation changes was introduced in 2009, but Williams could not capitalise on this despite evidence suggesting the team had switched focus to its new car early in 2008. Nakajima was unable to display his talent in an underperforming car.

With the modern scoring system, Nakajima's total would improve from nine points up to 34.

6 - Shinji Nakano

Shinji Nakano was granted his F1 opportunity at Prost in 1997 through engine partner Mugen Honda.

Despite retiring from nine of the 17 races, Nakano banked two points in his debut season - a strong return for a rookie at that time - but a total far from good enough when compared to the 19 scored by Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis who shared the sister car.

As a result, Nakano was dropped for 1998 but found a new home at Minardi. Four top-10 results would follow, but his two sixth-place finishes from his debut year would remain his only points finishes.

Whilst others on this list failed to match their potential due to racing with weaker machinery, Nakano enjoys an elevated position due to the strength of the Prost.

His modern points conversion of 45 sees him narrowly miss out on a top-five spot.

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