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Profiling Ritomo Miyata: F2’s First Openly Autistic Driver

Japanese driver becomes first neurodivergent competitor in motorsport's leading junior series

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Ritomo Miyata and I share a trait: we are both autistic. His groundbreaking motorsport journey is powerful for future neurodivergent drivers. 

Ritomo Miyata testing in F2 for Rodin ahead of the 2024 season (Image Credit:@NotFifthGear on X)
Ritomo Miyata testing in F2 for Rodin ahead of the 2024 season (Image Credit:@NotFifthGear on X)

Ritomo Miyata was born in 1999. This was a time of expanding societal awareness of neurodivergent conditions such as autism. Miyata was diagnosed in his childhood. His diagnosis came at a time when autistic individuals who presented with high intellect were diagnosed with ‘Asperger’s Syndrome.’ A British Physicist named this after controversial Paediatrician Hans Asperger.

His involvement in Aktion T4, a project by the Nazis where they euthanised disabled children, as well as the need to recognise there are various challenges as well as strengths contributed to the term Aspergers being retired in favour of the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I received my autism diagnosis in 2015 at the age of seven. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopment condition which affects one in a hundred people in Scotland, according to the most recent data gathered by the Scottish government.

If I had to describe autism in one word, I would say the word ‘individualistic.’ Every person has a different experience with it. The key to effectively supporting autistic relatives and friends is to gain knowledge and understand specifically what works for them. All autistic individuals have strengths to embrace and celebrate and challenges to work through.

A great strength of mine is how I process and retain information, particularly around my interests, such as Motorsport.  I also have a great understanding of Neurodivergence.

As part of my daily challenges being autistic, I struggle with crowds of people, sensory sensitivities and socialising. Many individuals who are not Autistic will experience some of these things. However, the impact on my daily life is significant. I can be very self-conscious of my autism at times, and being diagnosed with it begins a long journey of discovery for many neurodivergent, which brings me on to Ritomo Miyata.

Early beginnings

Miyata was born and raised in Japan, where 1 in 55 Japanese children are autistic. His experience with autism was one of struggle.

His official website states: “In early childhood, he was diagnosed with autism and developmental disorders, and he could not fit in with kindergarten or elementary school, so he spent his early childhood attending the National Children’s Hospital and receiving counselling.” Reading this was highly relatable to me.  I, too, struggled with primary school and missed two years of education.

Miyata discovered racing as a child, as both of his parents were car enthusiasts, evidenced by Ritomo being named after the Fiat Ritmo. According to Miyata’s website:

“When he took a trial ride at the Nakai Intercircuit, he listened to the trainer and was calm, so he easily thought that it would be suitable for his son and decided to continue with it. It all started when I stopped by Morishita Racing, a kart shop in Atsugi City, Kanagawa Prefecture.”

And thus, his racing career began. Racing helps Miyata emotionally regulate himself. After karting between 2004 and 2014, Miyata started racing professionally in 2015 in the F4 Japanese Championship. Racing in three rounds out of seven,  he scored a podium. He finished 15th in the standings. Racing full-time in 2016 in Japanese F4,  he won the title in his first full season, taking three victories on his way to the championship.

Rising the motorsport ladder
Ritomo Miyata racing in Japanese Super Formula (Image Credit:@supergtworld on X)
Ritomo Miyata racing in Japanese Super Formula (Image Credit:@supergtworld on X)

Miyata then raced in Japanese F3 from 2017-2020. He finished fourth or higher in every season he competed in, winning the title in 2020 after finishing third in 2019 and second in 2018.

Promoted to Super Formula in 2021, the series above Japanese F3, he finished 10th in his first full-time season. His season’s best finish came at Autopolis, which was stopped due to poor conditions.

In his second full season, Miyata finished fourth in the standings, beating Naoki Yamamoto, Tadasuke Makino, and former F2 race winner Nobuharu Matsushita.

The three drivers to finish above him were Tomoki Nojiri, two-time Super Formula champion in 2021 and 2022, Sacha Fenestraz, Formula E driver for Nissan, and Ryo Hirakawa, who is the reigning WEC champion for Toyota, and a runner-up in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an impressive list. Then, in 2023, Miyata put in the performances which earned him a seat in the 2024 Formula 2 Championship for Rodin Motorsport.

There would be nine rounds in the 2023 Super Formula Championship—three at Fuji Speedway, three at Suzuka and one each in Autopolis, Sugo and Motegi. What was notable with Miyata was that he did not take a single pole position during the season. He was, however, consistent in the races. His average qualifying position was 4.5, but his race-finishing position was 2.7.

The first championship

Miyata took victory in Suzuka and Sugo, and heading into the final round, it was a title decider between Miyata, Liam Lawson, and Nojiri. Miyata did have some luck over the season due to Nojiri having a pneumothorax, which resulted in him missing Autopolis. Lawson’s overly ambitious overtake on Nojiri in Motegi meant that heading into the final two rounds, the doubleheader in Suzuka, Miyata had 96 points, Lawson had 89 points, and Nojiri had 84 points.

Forty-six points could be won over the weekend, so for Miyata to win the title, he needed to win one race and finish second in another. In the opening race, Nojiri would win, with Miyata second and Lawson just sixth.

The race was stopped before 75% of it had been completed, meaning half points were awarded. Now, the points were Miyata at 105.5 points, Lawson at 91.5 points, and Nojiri at 97 points. For Miyata to be guaranteed the title, he needed to finish second, as the gap was 8.5 points.

In Super Formula, 20 points are awarded for a win, 15 for second, 11 for third, 8 for fourth, 6 for fifth, 5 for sixth, 4 for seventh and so forth. Miyata would finish third in the finale, with Lawson finishing second and Nojiri finishing fourth.

Miyata was the champion. He won Super Formula and Super GT with Sho Tsuboi, becoming the fifth driver to complete this double.

History in the making?

In my opinion, Ritomo Miyata could become F1’s first openly autistic driver. I honestly think that if he is given two seasons in F2 with Rodin Motorsport, (formerly Rodin Carlin), who is known for promoting talents to F1, most recently Logan Sargeant, he could make it to F1.

He’s already started well in F2, qualifying sixth on debut. In the feature race, he had bad luck due to a safety car, which cost him several positions. In the sprint race, he had a poor start.

Despite these setbacks, he scored two points in his maiden weekend with two ninth-place finishes. Poor qualifying in Saudi Arabia and a penalty in the main race cost Miyata hugely. But the pace was there, as indicated by his having the fastest lap for several laps before Enzo Fittipaldi took the fastest lap on the race’s final lap.

Of the ten rookies, Miyata is currently seventh. However, it’s worth noting that moving from Super Formula to F2 is different from all the other rookies, who have either gone from F3 to F2 (Marti, Aron, Bortoleto, O’Sullivan, Colapinto, Villagomez) or from FRECA to F2 (Antonelli & Durksen). To add to this, unlike the others, Miyata hasn’t raced outside of Japan in his career.

If he doesn’t succeed in F2, there could be an opportunity in the World Endurance Championship with Toyota. Currently a programme driver for them, he has already raced in WEC in the LMGTE Am class at Fuji.  he finished second before being demoted to third due to failing to slow during a Full Course Yellow.

Feature Image Credit: @NotFifthGear on X

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