In my first round-up of the spectacular 2008 Formula One World Championship, we discuss one team that didn’t make it through to the end. With a little sadness, Super Aguri disbanded after only four races, Honda pulling the plug and a rescue deal failing the materialise or be agreed upon. The saga that engulfed the team back in April left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, but Formula One as they say, is indeed the piranha club.
The young Leafield-based team had been punching above its weight in 2007 and with continued support from Honda, it was hoped that the momentum could be carried forward into 2008. Alas, it wasn’t to be and the launch of the new car was postponed. The team then failed to attend the final test sessions of the off-season and it was announced that financial difficulties had meant the team didn’t have many spare parts.
Aguri Suzuki managed to get his team to Australia though and both Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were on the grid in Melbourne. The drivers had been told to take it easy though and to not take unnecessary risks – each damaged part cost the team money they simply didn’t have. Both drivers failed to finish in Australia, and behind the scenes Suzuki was desperately trying to put a deal together that would save the squad.
Unfortunately for Super Aguri, no matter what they tried, they simply couldn’t get agreement on an investment package, but still the drivers ploughed on, attending the flyaway races and continuing to keep out of trouble on the track. In Malaysia, Sato managed to finish ahead of Adrian Sutil’s Force India, but in Bahrain order was restored as the Aguri pair qualified and finished in the final two places.
By the time the fourth round of the championship came around things were looking very desperate at Leafield. Honda were pulling their support, the Magma deal had fallen through and it seemed every thing and one was against the plucky team from competing. Suzuki had hoped a new deal from the Weigl group might be his answer, but Honda refused, saying that they believed the company didn’t have the necessary funds to support the team.
The team raced in Barcelona, and although the writing was on the wall, the team did not know at the the time that this would be their final race. The result – Super Aguri’s last – was a DNF for Davidson, and a thirteenth (and last) for Sato.
The cars were sent to the Istanbul circuit for the following race, the Turkish Grand Prix, but upon arrival they were refused entry to the grounds because of what was about to happen back in the UK.
On May 6th 2008, Aguri Suzuki announced to the media the withdrawal of his team from the Formula One World Championship. Over the following days and weeks, the company went into administration and the equipment at Leafield was eventually auctioned off. People around the world felt for the team – their competitive spirit and plucky determination attracted many fans – but unfortunately the cheers from the crowds do little to the bank balances.
The 2008 season started with 11 teams and 22 drivers, but ended with only 10 teams and 20 drivers. Super Aguri amassed four points in their short 39-race history and touched the hearts of thousands. But Formula One is a formidable machine that doesn’t stop, and the plight of Aguri’s squad was soon forgotten about in the paddock.