Davidson finally handed F1 drive

Anthony Davidson, for so long one of the "nearly men" of Formula One, has finally secured a race seat. The British driver will compete with Super Aguri next season alongside Japan's Takuma Sato.

The Japanese team announced yesterday that Davidson would, as expected, step up to a race role having been the engine supplier Honda's official test and development driver since 2001.

Aguri Suzuki, the team principal and himself a former Formula One racer, said: "Anthony has been with Honda as a test driver for a while now and he brings to us a wealth of experience in Formula One."

Davidson, who had once despaired of making the step up to race driver, said: "This is a great opportunity for me and I'm really excited about my first full season as a race driver in Formula One. I've been impressed with the improvements the team have made through the 2006 season, and I can already see from my first visits to the factory that the team are very hard-working and highly motivated."

The 27-year-old from Hemel Hempstead made an impressive Formula One debut as a stand-in driver with Minardi in Hungary in 2002 and also stood in for Sato with British American Racing in Malaysia in 2005. As Honda's Friday driver, he was fastest overall eight times this season.

A former karting champion, Davidson was a contemporary of Honda's Jenson Button. "It's always been really close between us," he said. "He won lots of our early kart stuff, and I won lots of our later races."

With Lewis Hamilton set to graduate with McLaren, Britain will have four drivers on the grid next year as he and Davidson join the Englishman Button and the Scot David Coulthard.