By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Andretti Autosport and newly signed driver Takuma Sato both are looking to have the perfect marriage into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Season.
For the Formula 1 competitor, he is joining a powerhouse team after a very hot and cold tenure at AJ Foyt Racing. Aside from a win at Long Beach in 2013 and briefly leading the series standings heading into the Indianapolis 500 that year, he has more than his fair share of bad luck.
The 39-year-old Japanese driver has shown many flashes of greatness. He came within four corners of winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, but crashed while trying to make a bold pass on Dario Franchitti for the win entering Turn 1 on the last lap.
Everything started to come together in 2013 in Long Beach when he dominated the race and took the win. A sure win at the next race at Sao Paulo in 2013 was taken from him in the final corner after a spirited duel with winner James Hinchcliffe.
He dominated the opening half of the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston, but crashed with Mikhail Aleshin after losing the lead fighting with the lapped car.
Basically, his career can be summed up as being the almost guy but never the guy.
Now with his move to Andretti Autosport, Sato has the chance to take that next step if everything comes together with a squad that has won multiple series championships, races and Indianapolis 500s.
“The team has proven year after year that they are ultracompetitive on all types of circuits,” Sato said. “Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were just incredible.”
Sato’s new home has captured four Indianapolis 500 victories – Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Alexander Rossi (2016) – and because of that there is hope that he can become their fifth winner of the historic race.
Although his opportunity for a win came and went in 2012, Sato has shown the ability when given the ideal package.
Another benefit that Andretti Autosport gives to Sato is the sharing data with other teams.
From the talent of the drivers to the engineers working on the cars, the quality of depth runs deeper than anything he has previously experienced during his time in the Verizon IndyCar Series – having previously driven for KV Racing and AJ Foyt Racing.
Team owner Michael Andretti noted that aspect of his team and Sato’s overall good personality are key in making the relationship work.
“He’s not yet had the chance to be part of a larger team where the drivers collaborate; our four drivers and team of engineers working together has bred success for us in the past and has helped many drivers develop on track,” he said.
Andretti added that he believes the addition of Sato should blend well with his current lineup.
“One of the things I am looking forward to the most about working with Takuma is his open personality. He is very friendly and encouraging to work with, his personality will be a strong addition to the team and I think he will work very well alongside Ryan, Alexander and Marco.”
While Andretti Autosport has a vast amount of success, they are also in hopes of a turnaround following a very rough 2016 season. Despite winning the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 with Alexander Rossi, they only had one representative in the top 10 by season end – the recently departed Carlos Munoz.
Heading into the offseason, the four-time Indy Car championship organization has made a variety of personnel changes. They have obtained a few big engineering names in the paddock in Eric Bretzman and Jeremy Milless. Bretzman worked with Scott Dixon at Chip Ganassi Racing and Jeremy Miless helped guide Josef Newgarden in his stint at Ed Carpenter Racing.
With the combination of positive changes at Andretti Autosport mixed with its rich history, Sato has never had a better opportunity than what he has in 2017.