The Elusive First Japanese F1 Win: Part Two

Who better to tell us a little more into Kamui’s fledgling F1 career than his number one fan? Introducing MarshallGP’s first guest blogger Chris Allison AKA @kamuiwatch on twitter.

Kamui Kobayashi has gone from being one of the most calamitous souls on the grid to being everyone’s second (or first!) driver.  After a spectacular start to his career attempting to derail Jenson’s title bid, he picked up his first points in only his second ever F1 race in an uncompetitive Toyota in F1’s first ever day to night race – and that’s just for starters!

Despite losing more front wings last season than Hamilton has had stewards enquiries this, he shone through as one to watch following some great drives, notably in Valencia (overtaking Alonso on the last lap to claim 7th in an uncompetitive Sauber) along with owning the hairpin turn 11 at Suzuka in his home race, overtaking on the inside and even the outside (of a hairpin!) of the corner, finishing up with a respectable 32 points for a rookie season in a car that should have been at the back of the midfield. He’s already had one of the strongest starts to the season on the grid – having scored points in every race bar Australia (where he was unfortunately disqualified from a points paying position!), in fine company with only championship leaders Vettel, Button and Webber having finished in the points at every race so far.

Whilst not quite having the same points-to-race ratio as the others, considering his car’s pace he’s certainly doing himself favours in establishing his reputation as a driver who isn’t afraid to have a go, can get the most out of his machinery and, importantly for this season, successfully managing the challenge of the Pirelli tyres.  You could even say that he has the perfect blend of Hamilton’s aggression, showmanship and willingness to take on all comers combined with the Button-esque intelligence to deliver on both pre-determined and ad-hoc strategy calls, often from a lowly grid position.

With the hot blown diffuser being reduced to only 10% from the British GP onwards, expect nothing less than the Sauber being more competitive than it has been so far relative to the rest of the field and Kamui really taking the fight to the Renaults and Mercedes of this world, hopefully taking the scalps of a few of the big boys in the process! Oh, and back to the point – the wait for the elusive Japanese F1 race winner is over, his name is Kamui Kobayashi, and thanks to a cheeky bit of rain, Sauber’s imminent relative pace increase and Kamui’s evident love of performing in front of his home crowd, if it doesn’t happen sooner – it’ll be in Japan.

As much as I enjoy Peter Sauber and his team’s approach to racing, it can’t be long before his talents are required by one of the top teams (no offence intended at all to the Sauber guys – they’re doing a great job this year!).  Where will he be in the future – going on to secure many more wins?  We all hope Kubica is back and strong from his injury, so the Renault seats are probably (& hopefully) taken.  Before Canada, it would have appeared that the obvious future vacancies are Massa and Schumacher’s seats – but I doubt I’m alone in thinking he’d be wasted as an understudy to Alonso, although he could slot in nicely next to Rosberg.  Webber’s seat at RBR is surely up for grabs in the near future, but will they continue with their driver development strategy or even go Hamilton as has been recently speculated, leaving a vacant seat at McLaren?  I tell you what – and you heard it here first – don’t be surprised to see Kamui driving a McLaren in 2013, and then this story really begins…


One thought on “The Elusive First Japanese F1 Win: Part Two

  1. brorblog

    Enjoyed your post – I too am a big, big Kamui fan.

    I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he has the ability to drive for a top team. Last year, his initial run of results was disappointing, the major reason being that people had forgotten the high standards he had set himself in 2009, with his races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. However most of the media ignored the facts of the matter ; yes he had 5 retirements in his first 6 races of 2010, but each and every one of those was out of his control. Bahrain, a hydraulics failure after 11 laps. Australia, a front wing failure (which plagued the Sauber team that weekend) on lap 1. Malaysia, a blown engine on lap 8. China, Liuzzi crashed into him and a Williams driver on lap 1. Then at Monaco he had a gearbox failure after 26 laps.

    From then on he’s been extremely consistent, a fact which people are finally beginning to realise. So too is his intelligence in the car, when he has to fight, he will, but he does not battle with people merely for the sake of it. If defending too hard will ruin his strategy, he will let someone past with relative ease, knowing that eventually his strategy will work out for him and allow him to maximize the points he can get.

    I think Kamui’s biggest problems getting himself into a better car are threefold ;

    1 – I’m not sure if he has the right management structure in place that can help him get to a top team. His manager is currently Yoshinori Arimatsu, who worked with Kazuki Nakajima previously. And, to be fair to Kazuki, while he was never completely abysmal, the fact that he brought Toyota engines to a flailing Williams team was a large part of what kept him in F1 for 3 years. There is no knowing what Arimatsu brings to the table ; perhaps he has great contacts within F1 and will help Kamui get up the ladder, perhaps not.

    2 – He has no sponsorship of note, aside from two small personal sponsors. It’s a bad time for Japan in F1, and most young drivers around him are supported by wealthy benefactors, either sponsors, such as in Perez’s or Maldonado’s case, or simply being funded by others, more like in Petrov’s case. I guess that’s partly why I root for him. Unlike pretty much every other Japanese driver there’s been in F1, he has stayed in F1 based solely on merit. Yes, he did receive tremendous support from Toyota that gave him a test driver role in 2008 and 2009, but with an unfortunate accident to Timo Glock, he was given a chance and immediately took it. It’s one of the interesting things about him, he has already spoken about how his racing career would’ve been over if he had not got a car for 2010, and he felt that he had to impress people immediately to carry on his career.

    3 – He has no team to attach himself to, unlike some other prominent young drivers. Perez has been a part of the Ferrari Driver Development programme, and actually is presented with opportunities to use the Maranello-based simulator. As far as I know, Kamui does not have those kinds of opportunities, and makes do with what I believe is the old Toyota simulator based in Cologne. I could be wrong on that one though – it’s pretty hard to find out where each branch of a team is located! Likewise, Vettel had the Red Bull programme to go through, meaning he was placed in a lower car at Toro Rosso while gaining experience, before stepping up to the “senior” team. Next, di Resta is a driver firmly attached to Mercedes through his DTM experience (German touring cars), so it’s unlikely that he’d end up at, say, Ferrari. Almost impossible, in fact.

    Looking realistically at the opportunities for Kobayashi, there are two slots that I can see for him.

    The first, and this is probably a stretch, is RBR. Mark Webber is coming to the end of his contract, and possibly his career. He is being quite easily beaten by Vettel, which I believe is still more to do with Vettel’s outright pace than any team orders behind the scenes. It would make no sense for them to have Webber being so far off Vettel’s pace.

    The second is Renault which is a team in a lot of disarray. Their two drivers are competent, solid if unspectacular. The team’s funding is not particularly secure and their continuing reliance on Vitaly Petrov’s sponsorship is perhaps indicative of their overall budget. Then there is the issue of Robert Kubica, will he come back strong? Or will he find himself pushed out of the team and even the sport?

    It’s impossible to know, but one thing’s for sure and that is, sooner or later, someone will have to take notice of an impressive young Japanese driver from Amagasaki.


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