Minardi's two Japanese drivers followed each other in quick succession, with Shinji Nakano taking the wheel in 1998. Born in Osaka, Nakano entered the karting scene in his teenage years. His father had also competed in Formula 2 races in the late 1970s and 1980s while running the family business. Nakano came in 7th in the Japanese Formula 3 championship in 1989 and moved to Europe to compete in Formula Opel Lotus, where he bagged one victory. He returned to Japan in 1992, and competed in F3000 for several seasons with his best performance in 1996, when he took several podium finishes. The year after he made his entry into Formula 1 in the Mugen-powered Prost car. It was a steep learning curve for Nakano who on all but one occasion got outqualified by his teammates Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli.
Nevertheless, Nakano managed to finish in the points twice, at Montreal and the Hungaroring. With Prost switching from the Japanese Mugen engines to Peugeot, Nakano left the team to join Minardi. At Minardi, Nakano had the edge over rookie Esteban Tuero in qualifying but the M198 was a weaker package than the Prost he drove the year before. Nevertheless, Nakano came within striking distance of repeating his points-scoring performance at the Canadian Grand Prix, coming in 7th, just behind Jan Magnussen in the Stewart who scored his only point that season. Nakano spent the 1999 season testing for Jordan, also powered by Japanese engines, but left Formula 1 after that. As is so often the case, Nakano jumped across the Atlantic to Champcar, where he enjoyed a decent season in 2002 with regular top-10 finishes. After a short interlude in Indycar, Nakano started competing in sports cars, entering Le Mans several times.