Day 21 of Badger’s Advent Calendar sees us looking at a man who has raced a mighty 21 Grand Prix in three batches of seven. Step forward Sakon Yamamoto!

It’s fairly well known that everyone’s favourite Japanese rent-a-driver, Sakon Yamamoto, has contested a total of 21 Grand Prix across three seasons of F1. But did you know he’s raced seven in each of the three season he’s been involved in? That’s seven in 2006, seven in 2007 and seven in 2010. Strange, we think you’ll agree. What’s the seven obsession, Sakon? Badger is seeking to answer this thoroughly odd mystery of modern F1.

Credit: HRT Media

The Significance of Seven

Seven is a significant number. We reckon that out of the first (and thus best) ten numbers seven is probably the third in terms of importance, behind one and three. One is obviously the ultimate as it signifies success: P1, one in a million and, err… The One Show (apologies to non-British readers). Three meanwhile is, as De La Soul sang on their rather good 1989 record 3 Feet High and Rising, the magic number. Then comes seven, which itself has plenty of interesting connotations.

First off, we’re told seven is a bit of a big deal in a number of religions and that’s great, but we don’t want to get involved in any debates on that topic. Suffice to say it’s symbolic to a lot of people, all of whom are very welcome on the pages of Badger.

It’s also a popular number in sport. Mickey Mantle was one of the finest baseball players of all time, and he wore the number on his New York Yankees jersey. It’s also a pretty sought after number in football. Manchester United in particular have had a few legendary number sevens, with George Best (sometimes), Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Christano Ronaldo all having worn the number for the club. And, a little closer to F1, let’s not forget motorcycle racing legend Barry Sheene, who ran as number seven for the majority of his career. Perhaps linking himself to the number seven is simply Yamamoto’s way of associating himself with this bunch of top-notch athletes.

Music? It pops up plenty here as well. Early nineties alt-rock pioneers The Pixies once sang, “if man is five and if the devil is six then God is seven.” Was this Sakon’s inspiration? Does he limit himself to seven races a season out of a deep love for the Black Francis and co.? If we’re honest we’d say it’s unlikely that he bases his career decisions on what a bunch of Bostonian college dropouts sang 20 years ago. Not impossible, but unlikely all the same.

On the other end of the quality scale there was of course S-Club 7, who once quipped that the ‘S’ stood for ‘whatever you want it to stand for’. Was this, as we’d all assumed, the mindless ramblings of a group of manufactured pop idiots or was it actually a ruse to cover up the real truth: that the group’s name is, in full, Sakon Club 7. No, probably not.

Added to these pretty valid explanations as to why Sakon loves the number seven we’d ask you to also consider the following, which word limits meant we simply couldn’t cover in full.

  • 7-Up, the lemon-lime flavoured soft drink favoured by shade-wearing, surfing red dots (above).
  • The fact that every seventh wave that washes ashore is the highest.
  • Windows 7 (which I wouldn’t know anything about, being staunchly in the Mac camp).
  • The Secret Seven books (he might just love Enid Blyton).
  • The Seven Wonders of the World.
  • The fact that Michael Schumacher took a record seven world titles (dream on, Sakon).
The Significance of Sakon

Horseplay over, let’s look at the racing driver. Despite his bad rep Sakon isn’t utterly talentless. We could reel off a long list of worse drivers (we’re looking your way Yuji Ide, Ricardo Rosset and Giovanni Lavaggi). He’s not one for crashing or causing silly accidents; he’s just not as quick as the Vettels, Alonsos or Hamiltons of this world. And who among us can say we are? It’s no great crime.

The seven-race-season thing is quite odd, and is added to by the fact that he’s never started a campaign earlier than June. It’s like he can’t get out of bed in time for the start of the season so he turns up halfway through, bleary eyed, to ask about for a seat. No one displays much attention until me mentions that he’s quite happy to pay for the privilege. Then doors start opening.

At Super Aguri he was pretty anonymous. He was probably the third best man to drive for them that season – not on the level of Takuma Sato or Franck Montagny but definitely a step up from Ide. He failed to finish the first four events and then registered 16th-17th-16th in the remaining three.

At Spyker he was again anonymous and beaten by Adrian Sutil, but recent developments from the German suggest that’s there’s no great shame in this. Here he finished five times, taking a best result of 12th at his home event.

People got a lot angrier with his presence this year, and we’re pretty sure we know why. In 2006 and 2007 he replaced Ide and Albers respectively. Those guys weren’t up to much, caused accidents and were generally considered no-hopers. So when they went and Sakon was given their seat no one minded much, so long as Sakon kept his nose clean.

Credit: HRT Media

In 2010 he replaced Karun Chandhok, a driver who quickly made himself very popular in the paddock and who was doing a decent job in a rubbish car. Whereas you can understand booting out Ide or Albers to bring in a driver of the same level who brings more cash it seemed unfair that Chandhok – who was yet to make any real mistakes – lost his drive. It clearly wasn’t a performance thing.

From what we’ve gathered Sakon’s now fallen out with Hispania and won’t be back in 2011 (though financial hardship on their part could yet see the relationship fixed). Under normal circumstances you wouldn’t expect to see him back in an F1 car any time soon but, in these tough economic times, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up on the starting grid again some day. Just don’t expect him to start until mid-season – or run anything other than seven Grand Prix.