The three youngsters participating in the 2023 FIA-F4 series from HFDP (Honda Formula Dream Project), namely Yusuke Mitsui (21 years old, born on April 21, 2002), Yuto, Nomura (17 years old, born on November 12, 2005) and Tosei Moriyama (20 years old, born on January 10, 2003) have all steadily developed as a racing driver.
Mitsui, leading the overall ranking, aims to win the championship with his distinctive 'personal' driving style
Mitsui, after finishing the 10th round of the 5th event in the 7-event/14-round series of the 2023 season, currently stands at the top of the point ranking and is resolutely aiming at the series title. But actually, Mitsui had started the season in the worst imaginable way to achieve his personal goal.
Mitsui had said in the face of his second FIA-F4 season that, “There’s no third year. It’s what I knew well about the series.” This notion probably made the burden too heavy that he ended up finishing the first two races outside the point.
“That’s not the real problem he had,” said his adviser, Toshihiro Kaneishi. “At the beginning of this season, he’d had a sort of prejudice. He’d convinced himself that he should take the leadership and do whatever best to become an example, because he was the only second-year driver in the team. It’s very nice for him to have a strong sense of responsibility, however, it seemed to me that he had restrained himself a little bit for that reason, and not run all out, a '100%' in other words. After he was given such an advice, he started to take things a bit easier and become more positive. He soon resumed his own 100% drive and got confidence back in himself. It’s one obvious proof of his growth.”
Mitsui himself has already acknowledged it.
“In the previous year, Koide (Shun) had shown me a lot of good stuffs demonstrating various type of setups, and I’ve been imitating it into my driving. This year, I thought I had to do the same thing myself, say, finding a good setup for them all. I’d got too much into it, I think.”
Koide had won the series title last year, and stepped up to the Super Formula series right now. Mitsui, as a senior member of HFDP, sitting in the position to fill Koide’s vacancy, naturally came to think that he had to take the leading role in the team, which consequently made him lose his own way of driving.
“I was given an advice at one time and realized the best strategic method for me. Listen to the outside opinion and think it together with the team staff, as simple as that. I’m in my second year. But, my team has done it many more years in FIA-F4. It means engineers and mechanics know things far better than I do, for sure. Then, I put my trust on them and tried to develop my competitiveness in accordance with their advice. Now, I can see everything has got better.”
Mitsui began recovering his original speed and consistency thereafter, gradually catching up the ground and finally stood on the top the point-ranking list. His eyes are now firmly fixed on the series title, absolutely ready for the last spurt hand in hand with his team towards the final phase of the season.
Nomura aims for a comeback as he competes for the title in his debut season
Yuto Nomura who had participated in the French F4 series till last year newly arrived as a rookie to the FIA-F4 series from this season. Although winning twice in France, he has yet to made the maiden victory in the same formula of his mother country. The F4 category in Japan uses normally aspirated engines whereas in France turbo-charged ones are used, and the character of F4 cars differs as well. On top of it, Nomura has never run on any of domestic venues bar Suzuka, Honda’s home circuit. In reality, he had to verse himself to each track he arrived before tearing it down. Nevertheless, Nomura has made a series of high finishes after his second race and got on the podium almost every time. For whatever reason, though, his first win in the series seemingly took forever to come.
Advisor Kaneishi commented on Nomura as follows:
“I want him to use his head a bit more when he’s racing. I doubt if there’s anyone in France who could have given him such an advice. He has natural speed, of course, but he still has many things to learn. How to use time in qualifying sessions, where to position in the race, optimum space to the car in front, timing of the attack, something like that. He has to think these things by himself. Having said that, his driving itself is getting better and better. He has innate aggressiveness, very much talented. So, once he’s got to know how to control his own ability, I’m sure he would outgrow his old self.”
Nomura on the other hand has come up with the same conclusion.
“French F4 was kind of a racing-school-type competition. There’s no one who gave me advice or anything. Some drivers had staffs who played such an advisory role, but I had none. I came to know now that objective views are often right and convincible. This year, I feel I’m doing in a much better atmosphere and able to learn a lot more.”
Nomura in the knowledge of renewed racing tactics got his third pole position this year and finally achieved the first win he has so longed for. By this feat, he came up to the runner-up position in the point ranking following Mitsui at the top.
“I’m so happy to be able to win, at last, in R-9,” said Nomura.
“But in R-10, I was hit by another car and ended up in no-point. It’s been since my debut race at the opening event. If I tell another cause of my regret, I’d done bad in the qualifying run for R-1o and had to start from 7th grid, and thus put myself in the mid-field traffic. Should I’ve done better in the qualifying, my race would go different way. That’s what I’d like to improve next time around in order to get another victory.”
As the series drawing near to the final stage, Nomura is standing at 2nd, 21-point behind Mitsui. It’s still in a feasible range of the last-minute upset even if he had to improve his qualifying performance. In Nomura’s eyes there’s one and only goal to achieve. The championship title in the debut season that is.
Will Moriyama triumph over the remaining challenges and secure his first win?
The third driver of HFDP, Tosei Moriyama was a student of HRS till last year and arrived in the FIA-F4 series which is the first full-fledged 4-wheel race for him. Lack of experience was inescapably obvious in his early performance, and therefore, he could hardly produce any decent results. But Advisor Kaneishi rates his ability rather high.
“Moriyama has been wasting his chances through various reasons, touching other cars for instance, however, when it comes to the forcefulness as a racing driver, I presume he stands out among the Honda trio. Whether you have guts to go for it right at the crucial moment is very important for a racing driver, and it’s what I rate most about Moriyama. He has had some difficulty to control his force, however, it’s getting better as the season went on. I can see the confidence is building up in Moriyama himself.”
Moriyama openly told early in the season that aggressive driving was his forte. But, in the face of his first ever 4-wheel race of genuine form, he could barely make his aggressive style produce noteworthy results. Before anything else, he had tended to bring destruction on himself by touching other cars or similar skirmish. But recently, Moriyama seems to understand problems of his own and start growing on them.
Advisor Kaneishi says: “Moriyama still has big problem in qualifying run. Same thing can be said about Nomura too, and anyway, it’ll certainly be the crucial point for both of them towards the final phase of the season. Moriyama’s getting better as well. Besides, he must push whenever he has to do so, and hold back if situation demands so. It’s what we call racing tactics. I’m sure he has such ability. He has speed too. If he got the knack of it, victory would be there for him to grab.”
Moriyama is now well aware of the problems he has in qualifying sessions.
“I’m not yet getting used to the tire management. How to make a one-off shot? It’s what I wanna find out. We don’t have much occasion to do quick laps on fresh tires, and I think that makes difference between drivers. I’m in serious need of more practice. So, I’ll try to find some place where I can do the practice. Then, I’ll be able to overcome my problem.”
On the other hand, he seems to increase confidence that his aggressive style is in keeping with results in the race.
“I understand much better for the characteristics of the car now, and I feel my confidence gets bigger and bigger every time I race. I’d really like to win in the final stage of the series. For that purpose, I’ll have to deal with the qualifying session first, and I set my own goal as to get at least 2nd row of the starting grid. Stay on aggressive, that’s the key to the success.”
There are only 4 races in 2 event left in the 2023 season where Moriyama so far stands 5th on the point table, 73-points behind Mitsui at the top and 52-points behind Nomura at 2nd. “I got a real feeling of my growth during the race weekend of 5th event at Sportsland SUGO. I thought as if I’d really broken open my shell and come out on a big step forward. I know qualifying run still remains as a hurdle for me to clear. So, I say, just do my best to sweep all pole positions in the rest of the races.”
Three drivers of HFDP having each one of their own target resolutely set to confront the final stage of the 2023 FIA-F4 season. The 6th event (R-11, 12) will be held at Autopolis on October 14-15, and the 7th event (R-13,14) at Mobility Resort Motegi on November 4-5, where the fierce competition of Japan’s up and coming young guns will see the grand finale.