Takuma Sato confirmed by BAR

Lucky Strike BAR Honda has, as expected, confirmed that Takuma Sato will complete the 2004 driver line-up, alongside Jenson Button. BAR have taken up its option on the 26-year-old Japanese, which will see him moving up from his current role as the team's third driver.

"The team very much appreciates Jacques Villeneuve's commitment over the past five years," said David Richards. "However, as his contract with the team has come to an end, we believe this is the appropriate time to refresh the driver line-up. We welcome Takuma as Jenson's team-mate for 2004. He has done an excellent job for us in testing this year and has confirmed our long-held belief that he has enormous potential. Takuma is widely regarded as a very fast driver and he has had a meteoric rise to Formula 1. When he drove for Jordan in 2002 he had just four years' prior racing experience and during that first season we saw flashes of brilliance, which he underlined with an impressive performance in the Japanese Grand Prix last year. After a further year of testing with BAR in 2003, we firmly believe that he deserves the opportunity to translate his natural speed into consistent race performances.

"With Jenson moving into his fifth season in Formula 1 and his second with BAR, he will provide the counter-balance of experience alongside the fresh enthusiasm of Takuma. A young and hungry driver line-up is essential for us to move closer to achieving our championship ambitions."

Sato was, not surprisingly, very pleased to be back in the sport fulltime.

"This is what I have been working hard all year to achieve," he said, "and now that the decision is made I am looking forward to proving myself again in the team next year. A year out of racing has been tough for me, but I am confident that the work we have done this year in testing has been extremely valuable in helping me and the team become a strong partnership. I have built good relationships with many people in the team this year and feel very positive that together we can be successful next season. Now, of course, I can't wait to start the build-up to the Australian Grand Prix in March."

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