Alesi grateful for "special" TOM'S Super Formula chance
Giuliano Alesi says he's relishing the chance to race for TOM'S in Super Formula this season as a replacement for Kazuki Nakajima, but admits he "doesn't know what to expect" from his debut.
Alesi, the son of ex-Formula 1 racer Jean, has moved to Japan for 2021 after two seasons racing in Formula 2, and will embark on a dual campaign racing in the second-tier Super Formula Lights series with TOM'S and in SUPER GT's GT300 class with Toyota Team Thailand.
However, with Nakajima set to miss multiple races due to clashing FIA World Endurance Championship commitments for Toyota and travel restrictions, Alesi looks set for an early debut in Super Formula, potentially as early as the second round of the season at Suzuka.
The Frenchman said he was aware of his employer's illustrious history in the series but, given his lack of experience of racing in Japan, was keen not to set overly high targets for himself.
"I think it's a really good opportunity I have been given by TOM'S," Alesi told Autosport during a presentation event for new team sponsor Deloitte. "I’m super-thankful.
"Being able to compete for a couple of events with a team that has such a great history, it’s really special and I want to work hard for that.
"There are still so many things I have to learn, but I know that the team has great experience, I know the car is good, so my objective will be to exploit that and bring the best result I possibly can with the car I have.
"The objective will be to score some points, get a podium if I can. But since I have never raced in Super Formula I don’t know what to expect, so it’s a little bit too early [to aim] for that."
Alesi first drove the SF19 last month in Suzuka pre-season testing in place of Nakajima, setting the fifth-fastest time on the second day.
On his first impressions of the car, Alesi said: "It felt really quick. Downforce, tyres, engine, everything. It's completely different to what I’m used to.
"When I was driving it, it felt really close to a F1 car. So that was my impression, like a F1 car. Much faster than F2."
Alesi's main campaign in the Super Formula Lights category kicks off this weekend at Fuji, where he will be part of the three-car TOM'S set-up alongside fellow rookies Hibiki Taira and Seita Nonaka, who are both stepping up from Japanese Formula 4.
The 21-year-old says he doesn't view the move as a backwards step in his career because he no longer harbours any realistic ambitions of racing in F1.
"As a driver you have big pride, but I tried to see it in a different way, not as a step down," Alesi said. "This is not for one or two years, I want to build my career here. That's why I moved to Japan and I'm living in Japan. It's a long-term move that I made.
"So more than step down from me, it's a way to learn to understand how works everything. I start to work my way through."
Giuliano Alesi, TOM'S
Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan