Takuma Sato has done his chances of returning to Formula One with Toro Rosso no harm at all by topping Monday's test in Barcelona and then finishing second behind Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull on Tuesday - ahead of Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais, the other contenders for the STR seats.
After the session, autosport.com heard from the former Honda and Super Aguri driver as he told reporters how he felt his prospects for 2009 were shaping up.
Q. What is your feeling after one and a half days?
Takuma Sato: Great, really. Obviously I really enjoyed driving the car, and I really enjoyed working with this team. It was already a great pleasure and very interesting to work with all the engineers and the team back in September's test in Jerez. But of course that was cut quite short by rain, and I've got another opportunity for one and a half days working with this team, and it was really absolutely enjoyable.
This time the weather was so consistent, no major issues with the car, so we did lots of laps. I mean, 200 laps in only one and a half days is very valuable data, so I'm happy.
Q. Do you think something will work out for next year?
TS: I really don't know. To answer the question is impossible for me. I've done everything I could in the cockpit and in the discussions with the engineers, but unfortunately this is not something that I can just decide, so I have to wait and see how the team decide. But I'm satisfied, not really thinking about competing for the seat, but I'm very happy to be back behind the wheel here. Of course the whole idea is racing next year, so let's hope.
Q. How does the Toro Rosso compare to the previous F1 cars you've driven?
TS: It's impossible to do a direct comparison. No doubt about it, this is one of the fastest Formula One cars I've ever driven, but I have to respect all the manufacturers so I cannot do a direct comparison.
But even so, today all the teams were trying different things, but I think we estimated 2009 kinds of downforce. The whole idea was to evaluate the Bridgestone slick tyre for 2009. From that point of view it was very interesting because we tried various set-up changes to see how the tyres reacted and it was working really well.
Obviously the slick tyre has got a big advantage in terms of just pure grip, so that's why the cars go really fast now, but of course you get reduced downforce.
Q. How is the new tyre?
TS: It could be more consistent, but it could be worse. In these very cool conditions, the tyre shows very good consistency. But I think Bridgestone is preparing deliberately a not really strongly consistent tyre because the two characters of the prime and the option make it more interesting for the races. I think that's the whole idea. But I think it didn't really work out as they thought. The tyres are very, very good. A lot of grip, and very consistent in these conditions. But somewhere in the season there will probably be different scenarios.
Q. Will Toro Rosso's decision come down to talent or money, and do you have personal sponsors who can help you?
TS: I really don't have cash. But of course I'd be very happy to bring a personal sponsor because if you add to the team's budget it will make the team stronger. But not so much to buy yourself the seat, that's obviously the second story. Of course we're negotiating all the possibilities to have personal sponsors, but I really don't know.
I'm here to drive, and from a driver's point of view just to do the best in the cockpit. In terms of the engineering, I'm very happy to work (with Toro Rosso). The sponsor talk, I let my manager do. Hopefully the team will make a decision towards me, that's only my point of view, but I cannot really prepare a budget.
Hopefully, maybe with this difficult economy, some good personal sponsors will support us and that will be an extra bonus for me.
Q. So how good a chance of a 2009 drive do you think you have at the moment?
TS: Only the team knows, I really don't know. But of course I'm here to grab that chance. I'm always on standby, that's why I'm here. I really want to race.
Also, in the last two and a half years with Super Aguri there were special memories, but purely from the driver's point of view, I always wanted to have a competitive package. Now we have some chances. With this environment, with such a great atmosphere in this team, it would be such a dream to race with them in 2009.