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Probably the shortest Grand Prix career ever



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Masami Kuwashima


Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05




1976 Japanese GP (Friday qualifying)


This is the almost phantasmagoric single F1 appearance of the virtually unknown Masami Kuwashima, taking the wheel of the second Williams at Mount Fuji.

Even after the takeover by Canadian oil magnate Walter Wolf, Frank's team was in a mess. For those who started taking interest in F1 in the eighties it's hard to imagine how terrible Williams were doing before a certain Patrick Head arrived on the spot. In fact, Williams were the Fortis of the mid-seventies, having no real business in F1.

Mid-season 1976 and the team was in total disarray: Jacky Ickx had abandoned ship and teammate Michel Leclère was thrown out, while Walter Wolf had his mind firmly set on a team of his own. Things got so bad that Williams had to put his second seat on offer. For the first Japanese GP in F1 history a local driver would take the drive next to Merzario, like Ickx another fallen Ferrari comet. That seemed a logical decision because several Japanese drivers (and even cars) were doing one-offs at their home track.

So Frank signed up Kuwashima, a midfield regular in the Japanese F2000 championship. Kuwashima drove the car in Friday qualifying, setting a time of 1.17.90, a full 5 seconds off poleman Andretti (1.12.77). But when Kuwashima's sponsorship fell through Frank decided to put young Hans Binder in the car. On Saturday, Binder only managed to be 5 tenths quicker than Kuwashima, one place up (25th) on the Japanese. For Binder to start the race - F1 used 24-car grids in those days - Williams had to ask permission from the other teams, which he duly received. Imagine Frank begging Ferrari for a grid position now...

Another interesting and barely recorded detail: Kuwashima had originally been entered in the private No.50 RAM Racing Brabham BT44, but that car had been impounded at the German GP (yes, the story is getting harder to believe all the time!) in the beginning of August. This will have meant that Kuwashima, having already made a deal to drive his home race in summertime, had to look elsewhere when the RAM deal collapsed.

All in all, one of F1's strangest and shortest appearances.