SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan’s most successful Formula One driver Takuma Sato wants to return to the sport and said his team’s sudden exit last year had left him with “unfinished” business.
“Formula One to me is an unfinished job after Super Aguri had to stop racing last year,” he told Reuters at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka on Saturday.
“My intention has always been to get back into F1.”
Sato has been out of the sport since his Honda-backed Aguri team folded in April 2008. The 32-year-old ruled out a reserve role with either of the Red Bull-owned F1 teams in March after failing to secure a race seat with Toro Rosso.
“By that time all other teams had made their driver decisions,” he said. “I wanted to keep open all options.”
Sato, whom a Japanese sports newspaper said was “job hunting” on Saturday, says 18 months out of the sport is too long but contends he’s ready to drive at racing’s highest level.
“I’ve got experience and speed -- that’s my selling point.”
The fluent English speaker says he is talking with all current and incoming F1 teams, but is also considering the Honda-backed Indy Racing League (IRL) for next year.
“I‘m putting the same weight towards F1 and IRL,” he said, noting changes in F1 that are likely to see many drivers change teams or become unemployed.
“I’ve found sometimes you can’t control all things by yourself... You can’t afford to be forgotten.”
Still tremendously popular at home, many Japanese fans consider Sato the face of national racing, although Kazuki Nakajima is the only countryman holding a starting driver position for Williams.
Sato said his return to Suzuka, the place where he saw his first F1 race in 1987 and earned his first points in 2002 with a fifth-place finish for Jordan, was difficult.
“This is the first time I‘m back in the paddock since we had to stop racing,” he said. “Being here and not racing is extremely tough, but hopefully next year I’ll come back -- as a race driver.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)