Mitsui, recognized as a rising hot shot now, could have been nowhere to be found on the FIA-F4 starting grid this season as he had already been omitted from the HFDP nomination. In fact, he resurrected from the brink of his premature racing career.
“My dad is very fond of motorsport and I have accompanied him to various motorsport events since I was little. I became interested in it of my own free will later on, and started kart racing on the advice of my father, saying, “You want to do it yourself, don’t you? Then I recognized there was an opportunity at SRS-F and applied for a hands-on training program. Nothing more than a casual idea, but I found it so enjoyable. That’s why I decided to enter the large-scale program with my father’s encouragement.
Mitsui heading to SRS-F determined that he would definitely aim to win the scholarship. He had even withdrawn from the automotive technical school where he had entered after high school. He then knocked on the door of a racing garage and got a part-time job there. The aim was to acquire as much mechanical knowledge as possible while studying car driving.
“Our class’s SRS school term admission has been postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If not, I would have started the internship by racing karts in same time. In fact, there is a whole blank year, so I looked for a way to learn formula racing properly. After entering a racing school, the next goal is to get a scholarship, and to go further, I think I have to make my own clear plan for the future and put my heart and soul into it. Otherwise, I would never survive the fierce competition in this business, I think”.
Unfortunately, Mitsui’s academic record was not as good as he expected.
“I would usually finish 3rd or 4th, something like that, and I was like, ‘You can’t get to the top unless you change your approach through your own efforts.’ That’s why I practiced driving a car even outside of school. In doing so, I felt not only that my skills improved, but also that my confidence grew. ‘If you drive your own way, you would have the chance to enter the scholarship quota’, that’s what I was thinking in my mind”.
Mitsui actually remained one of the six scholarship applicants and participated in the final selection. But it was officially announced in November that the scholarship would be given to Sota Arao and Yuto Nomura, the 1st and 2nd in the class, meaning Mitsui failed the competition.
“I was disappointed, of course. But I knew they were faster than me. Both. I could accept it. I had to, anyway. And then I reset my mind trying to figure out what to do next.
Mitsui even thought about challenging the 2022 FIA-F4 series on its own.
“If I could produce decent results, someone who relied on SRS graduates might actually single me out for one merit or another. I was also advised that, and luckily my personal sponsor agreed to participate in the plan. My parents said to me, ‘You have done so many things. It’s good but not enough. You should do until you reach your limit.’ Great, isn’t it?”
However, things have evolved in the other direction. RedBull junior team appointees Sota Arao and Yuto Nomura have changed their direction to French F4, and there has been a vacancy in HFDP to fill the FIA-F4 cars seat.
In January 2022, Mitsui preparing his own entry in the FIA-F4 series received a phone call. “You don’t want to race in FIA-F4 as a member of the HFDP, do you? said the voice on the other end of the line. Mitsui didn’t need time to think, not even a fraction of a second. He slammed the offer.
“Omitted from the SRS scholarship, I thought I had been refused as a driver, at least in my capacity. But the news that I would have the opportunity gave me confidence. “Someone saw my efforts that don’t always produce results and found merit in me or potentiality, maybe,” I thought. This encouraged me a lot and I promised myself: ‘I will do my best, get results from the start of my first season.’ I also set my personal goal. ‘I do what I can do. That means I draw my diamond. I’ll be the series champion!”
As mentioned in the opening lines, Mitsui, against all odds, took his first victory in the very first round of the 2022 FIA-F4 series. The chaotic start to the race prompted opinions such as “Mitsui’s victory was a stroke of luck” in some quarters, however, subsequent superb races dispelled such slanders. He finished 2nd in R-2 behind his teammate, Shun Koide, and added two more consecutive 2nd places in the next event at Fuji (R-3, R-4), climbing to the top of the points standings.
Considered a “lucky newcomer” at first, Mitsui has now established himself as one of the hottest young talents right now. But when the 3rd weekend of the event rolled around, he was edged out by Koide in R-5 and R-6, finishing 3rd and 2nd, and also ceded leader status to the teammate. Nonetheless, Mitsui has made it to the podium in all 6 heats so far and sits in second place by a wide margin over 3rd.
Said Mitsui after the event in Fuji：
“Koide has a lot more experience, and I’m clearly behind him. Even though I’m 2nd in the points standings, the difference in ability between Koide and myself is so big that I can’t understand what what’s missing or what’s deficient in my ride. I really don’t know. But I want my inexperience to be no excuse. You can be fast if you find your own way to be fast, even without experience. That’s true, I am losing now. I can only walk my path, step by step. The racing season does not wait if I take too long, but there is no point in rushing. I will learn the necessary things every race I run, I’ll catch up and finally pass. That’s how I like it.
Mitsui firmly grasped the opportunity presented to him at the edge of a cliff and is now striving to push the limits of his abilities even further. The highlight of his first FIA-F4 season is yet to come.