With 4 totally different winners in as many races, the opening half of the 2019 Tremendous Components season paints an image of a tightly-competitive subject. And whereas there is no such thing as a denying that the grid provides an excellent mixture of native stars and worldwide expertise, two acquainted drivers have managed to face out from the remainder and pull an enormous factors lead on the prime of the standings.
What’s much more spectacular about Yamamoto and Cassidy’s early-season success is that they each jumped ship over the winter, becoming a member of groups that haven’t loved the very best of fortunes just lately, Dandelion Racing within the case of Yamamoto and TOM’S for Cassidy.
The pair should be thought-about the favourites for this 12 months’s crown, and there may very nicely be a repeat of their 2018 battle that culminated in a tense title decider at Suzuka.
However as historical past reveals, the complexion of the championship may change quickly. Simply ask Yamamoto how shut he got here to dropping final 12 months’s title after his mid-season droop.
So, who’re the primary outdoors challengers who may come up on the rails and spoil Yamamoto’s and Cassidy’s celebration?
Alex Palou (Nakajima Racing/Honda)
Polesitter Alex Palou, Nakajima Racing
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Whereas the Spaniard was unable to transform that coveted beginning place right into a podium after technical gremlins compelled him to retire early from the race, his debut efficiency supplied a glimpse of what was to return from the ex-GP3 and European F3 racer.
The consequence elevated him to fourth within the drivers’ standings, and proved why Palou wasn’t naive to focus on the title in his debut season.
Extra intriguingly, his Fuji efficiency adopted an error-strewn weekend at Sugo, the place he first crashed in qualifying after which copped a hefty 30-second penalty for overtaking a driver earlier than crossing the ending line after a security automotive interval.
Palou’s capacity to bounce from these rookie errors confirmed he has matured in a brief span of time, and now he seems to be able to problem the large two for championship honours.
Yuhi Sekiguchi (Impul/Toyota)
Yuhi Sekiguchi, Group Impul, Kazuyoshi Hoshino, Group Impul
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Sekiguchi is among the most fun drivers on the present Tremendous Components grid, and has been a front-runner from his very first 12 months within the collection in 2016.
He’s fast, dependable and has gained races in each season he has competed in. But by some means he’s but to function in a title combat. This 12 months doesn’t seem like any totally different as a mechanical failure at Suzuka has left him looking at a 17-point deficit to Yamamoto.
However Sekiguchi can simply haul himself again within the hunt, as he’s near-unbeatable on his day. Simply have a look at his efficiency at Autopolis the place he pulled a 40-second hole over the remainder of the sphere to have the ability to pit and nonetheless come out within the lead safely.
That drive was some of the exceptional in latest Tremendous Components historical past and a significant endorsement for a driver who may obtain a lot extra with a constant season.
If Sekiguchi can carry out on the similar stage within the subsequent two rounds, it’s not laborious to think about him becoming a member of Cassidy and Yamamato within the title combat come Suzuka.
Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing/Toyota)
Podium: third place Kenta Yamashita, Kondo Racing
Picture by: Jun Goto
Yamashita spent a lot of 2018 within the shadow of Kondo teammate Cassidy, however a podium within the season finale marked a brand new starting for the Toyota teen.
Since then, Yamashita has proven all of the qualities of a prime driver, and has constantly been among the many quickest within the Toyota camp.
The 24-year-old’s surge in kind has been notably evident in SUPER GT, the place alongside Kazuya Oshima he has gained back-to-back races to take a snug factors lead.
In reality, Toyota has been so impressed by its prodigy that it has positioned him within the LMP2 class of the upcoming FIA World Endurance Championship season.
There may be little doubt that Yamashita is having fun with a purple patch of late, in comparable trend to Yamamoto did at this level final 12 months, and he might be eager on replicating his SUPER GT leads to Tremendous Components.
Some could say query how a driver who’s but to win a race be thought-about a title risk, however Yamashita’s present kind means he has the potential to disturb the pecking order.
Podium: second place Kamui Kobayashi, KCMG
Picture by: Masahide Kamio
Whereas the aforementioned trio is greatest positioned to reap the benefits of any off weekend for Cassidy or Yamamoto, there are a number of different drivers able to successful races within the closing a part of the 12 months.
Certainly one of them is ex-Components 1 star Kamui Kobayashi, who has developed a fame of dragging a midfield KCMG automotive to podium locations each season. Kobayashi has been let down by his group and exterior circumstances a number of occasions previously, however his underlining velocity means he shouldn’t be discounted simply but.
One other potential title risk is Tomoki Nojiri, who has one of many quickest automobiles on the grid underneath him. Nojiri has carried out a decent job after assuming the group chief function from Yamaoto at Mugen, though he did throw away a podium end at Sugo.
Then there’s Purple Bull junior Lucas Auer, the rookie who pushed somebody as skilled as Nojiri into making a mistake.
This was presupposed to be a studying 12 months for Auer as he refamiliarised himself with single-seater equipment. However Auer has exceeded all expectations with the unfancied B-Max/Motopark group, and already has a podium and a string of top-five qualifying outcomes underneath his belt.
Tremendous Components factors standings: