Two-time Super Formula Champion Tomoki Nojiri was handed the chance to drive Red Bull’s RB16B Formula 1 cR at Motegi, Japan as part of Honda Thanks Day 2023.
Nojiri, aged 34, is no stranger to high-performance single-seater machinery, with the Japanese Super Formula Championship – in which he pilots a Mugen SF23 – being one of the closest racing experiences to F1 in global motorsport.
However, the Japanese driver’s outing on Saturday in the car that guided Max Verstappen to the 2021 F1 Drivers’ title was his first taste of Grand Prix machinery.
Honda Thanks Day at Motegi is a weekend of celebration, rewarding its employees for their exploits on two and four wheels and Nojiri earned his prize of driving the RB16B courtesy of back-to-back titles in the Super Formula Championship in 2021 and ’22.
Sporting a Red Bull-liveried car, Nojiri came close to making it a hattrick of successive titles in 2023, claiming three victories and missing out on the title by eight and a half points.
Nojiri finished third in the Super Formula Drivers’ standings behind eventual champion Ritoma Miyata and teammate Liam Lawson, who balanced his Super Formula campaign with a stand-in period at AlphaTauri, competing in five Grands Prix in place of the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
Lawson had made the switch to Super Formula following a two-year stint in Formula 2 and sought to use the Japanese series as a stepping stone to Formula 1.
Liam Lawson #15 Team Mugen, during round six of the Japanese Super Formula Championship at Fuji Speedway, on July 14-16, 2023. // Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202307160163 // Usage for editorial use only //
The Red Bull Reserve driver wasn’t the first to make this switch, with Pierre Gasly jumping from GP2 (now F2) to Super Formula in 2017, claiming two wins and finishing runner-up in the standings.
The Formula 2 and Super Formula connections continue at Honda Thanks Day as Nojiri’s F1 car run is part of a collaboration that will see F2 driver and Red Bull reserve Ayumu Iwasa pilot the Mugen SF23 – Iwasa will compete alongside Nojiri as his teammate in next year’s Super Formula campaign.
Nojiri will compete in both Super Formula and Japanese Super GT in 2024.
Nojiri and Iwasa form part of an extraordinary Honda Thanks Day 2023 lineup, that includes, Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and Lawson, as well as Takuma Sato, Marc Marquez, Moto2’s Ai Ogura and Somkiat Chantra, Honda World Endurance rider Josh Hook, Suzuka 8-Hour winners Takumi Takahashi and Tetsuta Nagashima.
Athletes from Motorcross, Supercross, Trials, Japanese Super GT and Super Formula will also be taking part.
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