Toro Rosso has confirmed Honda-backed driver Naoki Yamamoto will drive for the team in first practice for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Yamamoto is currently competing in both Japanese Super Formula and Super GT, where he claimed the title in each series last year.

The Japanese driver was team-mate to 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button during his title-winning Super GT season.

Pierre Gasly will step aside from his FP1 duties for Yamamoto to get his first taste of F1 machinery in front of his home fans at Suzuka.

It marks the first time a Japanese driver has driven in an official grand prix session since Kamui Kobayashi at the 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

“First of all, I would like to thank Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull and of course Honda for giving me this great opportunity. I am delighted that I will get to drive a Formula 1 car this weekend, something which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” Yamamoto said.

“To get this chance at Suzuka, a very important circuit for all Japanese racing drivers, in front of such a big crowd of Japanese fans, will make the experience even more special.

“I have prepared as well as possible for this, spending time as part of the Toro Rosso team at several Grand Prix weekends and I have also worked in the Red Bull simulator.

“My main aim in FP1 will be to do a good job for the team, gathering data and information which will be useful for them over the weekend.

“On a personal note, I want to enjoy the experience of driving an F1 car as much as possible and I will be trying my very best to get the most out of it. It will be a special moment and I’m glad I will get to share it with the fans at this amazing race track, where I first watched Formula 1 cars in action 27 years ago.”

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost added: “We are very pleased to have a Japanese driver here in Suzuka driving our STR Honda, and we are sure that Naoki san will enjoy the laps in FP1 on one of the greatest race tracks in the world.

“He is a talented driver, being the reigning champion in Japan’s two most important race series, and he also knows the Suzuka circuit very well.

“Naoki san has spent several European races as part of our team this year, getting to know the engineers he will work with this weekend and he has also spent time in our simulator. I am sure that all the fans in the grandstands will enjoy seeing a Japanese driver taking part in the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.”