At best, he may be a gifted genius capable of executing things that mere mortal racing drivers wouldn’t even attempt. At worst, he takes too many risks, causes incidents and compromises solid results.
With Takuma Sato, IndyCar is never boring. Neither did his Formula 1 career, with its mix of genius moments and numerous disappointments and mishaps that prevented all the promise of his junior career from translating into success at the highest level.
The 46-year-old Japanese driver joined Chip Ganassi Racing to race IndyCar ovals, and depending on your opinion of Sato, you might think “great, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner to add to the team” or “he is not very Ganassi: too risky and inconsistent”.
The middle ground might be that both of these statements are actually good for Ganassi.
With Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson, Ganassi probably has the most balanced line-up of the entire field. Tony Kanaan has been jumping for an extra car for the 500 for the past two years, and he’s also been a pair of safe hands for the team as he nears the twilight of his career.
All four were and are pilots who rarely make big mistakes and tend to err on the side of caution despite being able to take calculated risks.
In 2022, Ganassi had an absolutely exceptional package that broke the Indy 500 qualifying record by four laps and probably should have locked up three of the top four spots in the race, as expected.
Chevrolet expects the team to be the one to beat again in 2023.
Given his composition and likely superiority, signing Sato could be an absolute masterstroke from Chip Ganassi and his team.
Along with Dixon, Ericsson and Palou, there are three dependable, dependable stars, and each is an Indy 500 champion or winner – in Dixon’s case, both – so why not go a bit to the left with the final entry?
And if you’re a fan of Takuma Sato throwing things at your screen in fury that we underestimate him, I get it. He’s won more 500 than Dixon – even though Dixon has been unlucky over the years – and the fact is Sato not only knows what it takes to win, he’s a rider willing to take the risks sometimes necessary to get there.
His 2020 victory may have been born out of strategy rather than big driving risk, but Sato accepted it and gave the strong push in the final stages of the race to lead when a warning did indeed ended the race. Had he stayed green, Dixon and Ganassi were adamant that Sato would have run out of fuel.
On paper, you can’t really predict late warnings if you’re the leader and controlling the race. Dixon and Ganassi made the right conservative call while Sato took the gamble and it paid off.
It’s exactly the kind of way Sato will offer something different to this line-up that already had pretty much everything it needed on paper anyway.
Consider that there were two other pairs of very safe hands under contract at Ganassi last year – Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais, in its sports car program – who could have been recruited for this role, admittedly, well that only Hunter-Reay is over 500 years old. winner. Sato delivers that mercurial pinch of magic that might straddle the line between genius and madness more than most other pilots.
But if all drivers were conservative, motorsport wouldn’t be so interesting.
Sato is unfortunately part of a dying breed of riders who may not be as consistent as their counterparts, but who are willing to go the extra mile to succeed and therefore make racing all the more exciting, if frustrating at times. if you are one of their fans.
In May 2023, Sato might have won a third Indy 500, he might have had an anonymous month where his more measured teammates would win or he might make a mistake pushing for glory – like he did. in his Indy 500 breakthrough in 2012 when he crashed on the final lap trying to pass Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti for the win.
Either way, it’s a risk Ganassi is right to take.
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