Ayumu Iwasa has come a long way from his roots racing in Japan, moving to Europe and putting himself in the fight for the 2023 Formula 2 title.
With a little while longer to wait before he can hit the track once again, the DAMS driver cast his mind back over those who have helped support and develop him as he’s progressed up the single-seater ladder, including one member of his family that keeps the Red Bull junior’s feet firmly on the ground.
SUZUKA RACING SCHOOL
“The Suzuka Racing School really helped me a lot. There are many professional drivers that work with them, such as from Super Formula or the ex-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato. I learnt quite a lot about my driving from them, but also other things to help me off-track, like they taught me what I should be doing to become an F1 driver.
“They really are supporting me a lot and even now, sometimes I text with Sato before a race. Then, if I have any questions, he supports me and gives me some advice or ideas.”
“My parents have supported me a lot because when I was in karting, I was racing with them and not in a big team. So, my father was my mechanic, my mother was managing a lot of stuff going on around me and then my sister came with us to the track for every race just to watch.
“They were amateur racing drivers, but they didn’t really teach me about driving. They just let me drive, whether that was on a race weekend or when practicing. For sure I’m better than them! Already I was faster than them, so they didn’t tell me what to do, but they just told me that I have to enjoy the race and that’s what is important.
“Of course, they were very happy when I won a race or won a karting Championship, but my aim in racing was not to just be a karting Champion because I wanted to be a professional driver in formula racing, touring cars – in everything. I wanted to step up to the top of the racing world, so that was our aim. Even when I won a Championship in karting, it was not the end of my story. My parents were happy for me, but I wasn’t as happy as they were because I was still working my way to the top.
“Every race weekend my little sister texts me, either before the weekend starts or after a session. If I have a really bad session or make a mistake, when I check my phone, she’ll have text me to tell me I’m a terrible driver, in a joking way every time. For example, last year she said I’d had a good race only a couple of times. Even when I won the Feature Race at Paul Ricard, she texted me ‘finally you’ve won a race, but you’re too late!’
“My sister never drove in karting and she’s not a racing driver, but she’s very confident that she can drive a car faster than me. When I go back to Japan, I have a simulator in my home and she wanted to drive it because she thought that she could beat me. Then when she started getting faster, she was only two seconds slower than me, so she was not bad to be honest. From that moment, she’d say ‘okay, if I started racing like you had, I’d be faster than you’."
MAX VERSTAPPEN & YUKI TSUNODA
“I have some drivers that are a benchmark for me. For example, of course Max Verstappen is a three-time World Champion and also Yuki because he went to F1 with only one season each in F2 and F3, which is very quick. I think he’s a very good benchmark for me because he is also supported by Red Bull and Honda, so our situations are quite similar.
“There are some things that I have to improve that Yuki is good at, so I can learn from him and from other drivers, even in F2. I’m always looking at a lot of drivers to learn things, not only on the driving side. For example, in F3, I was struggling to be aggressive and I was a bit too safe. I had quite consistent results, but I wasn’t so impressive and quick.
“Then I was trying to improve on that for last year, which was not easy because I had to change my driving style, but I was trying to learn from Yuki. He is quite an aggressive driver and he did well in F2 straight away, so I studied what he did so that I could actually change how I drove. To be honest, I had quite a few bad results, but I was able to improve because I knew what was wrong. I worked on it with DAMS and they were giving me advice, so from that I was trying a lot of things and they clicked.”