Toro Rosso have praised Naoki Yamamoto on his Formula 1 debut, describing his performance during the opening practice session as "impressive".
The Super Formula and Super GT champion got the chance to take over Pierre Gasly's STR14 during FP1 in front of his home crowd at the Japanese Grand Prix and was immediately on the pace, posting a time which was less than a tenth of what Daniil Kvyat managed in the sister car.
"It was great to welcome Naoki to the team and give him the opportunity to drive the STR14 in FP1 – the atmosphere around the paddock and garage created by Naoki driving the STR Honda in Suzuka was fantastic," commented Jonathan Eddolls, Toro Rosso's chief race engineer.
"He drove Pierre’s car and did an extremely solid job for the team. From his first lap you could tell he was on it and he built up the pace lap to lap during this run. Switching to the Option compound for the second run, he extracted the expected improvement in grip from the track and tyre, setting a competitive lap time.
"He obviously knows the circuit well but this was an impressive session for his first outing in an F1 car!"
Yamamoto said he was surprised by the performance of the car and was pleased to extract as much as he did, also thanking Gasly for lending him his car.
"I spent the session getting used to the car; the power is amazing! I was very surprised, I have never felt such power before, so that was the biggest difference between Super Formula and Formula 1.
"I learnt a few things about the car and the balance, and I gave as much feedback as possible to the team.
"This is my home Grand Prix and there are a lot of fans coming to Suzuka, even for FP1 on a Friday! I was really surprised and I would like to say thank you very much to all of the Honda and Toro Rosso fans.
"For sure I wanted to have a better result than 17th, but the most important thing is that I didn’t crash and I provided good information for the engineers. I wish the team a great result this weekend, especially Pierre as he gave me his car – I am grateful to him."