MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Almost a full season out of Formula One racing didn’t dull Takuma Sato’s appetite for the sport, or his sense of adventure.
The Japanese driver had a wild spin in the second free practice session for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but ended the day feeling confident heading into the 2004 season.
Sato, 27, who has replaced former world champion Jacques Villeneuve at BAR Honda, was 12th quickest after Friday’s opening sessions.
He clocked 1 minute, 26.967 seconds around the 5.303-km Albert Park circuit, more than two seconds behind pace-setter Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.
“It’s great to be back coming a Grand Prix again but it is quite a challenge to adapt to the new format,” said Sato, who made his debut in 2002 driving for Jordan, but was a test driver for BAR last year before replacing Villeneuve.
“It’s a little bit difficult for me to have the feel of the car . . . to come back to the Grand Prix races,” added Sato.
Sato drove for BAR in the final race of last season — the Japanese Grand Prix — when Canadian Villeneuve pulled out after being dropped for 2004. The Japanese driver collected three points for a sixth-place finish.
On Friday, Sato had hearts pounding when he spun out on Turn 12 after going into the trackside grass, but managed to get the BAR006 car under control without any damage.
“I’ve had very little track time so it is difficult to choose the right tire in such a short space of time,” he said.
Sato said he was looking forward to the weekend.
“I feel very comfortable and very positive. It’s only the very beginning and we will see tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better for me,” he said.
“The team is working very well and our team’s atmosphere is very high. It’s a fantastic opportunity. To me the racing is everything, so I’m very, very glad.”
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