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Kobayashi knows he needs to unlock speed if he’s to take the next step
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Aug 2011   |  10:30 am GMT  |  83 comments

Kamui Kobayashi has won many fans in his brief F1 career to date for his swashbuckling style; not just his signature bold overtaking moves, but also his defensive driving, which has also been very effective.

I’ll put my hands up and admit I love Kobayashi as a racer, he’s top quality entertainment and I love his spirit in a car, which reminds me a little bit of Jean Alesi.

Alesi made a big impression in a midfield Tyrrell car and ended up in a Ferrari, something which many fans would like to see happen with Kobayashi. It would be an amazing thing, and would align with Stefano Domenicali’s recent statement that for the future they would be looking to put a young driver alongside the experienced Fernando Alonso, who is tied to the team for five years. This is what they did with Felipe Massa, also a former Sauber driver, whom they placed alongside Michael Schumacher in 2006.

Sauber has been an important proving ground for Ferrari over the years, they take a supply of their engines and Ferrari is able to keep close tabs on the drivers’ performance. Sergio Perez is highly rated at Maranello; he was briefly, a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy before he signed his Sauber contract.

So they will be able to monitor Kobayashi in comparison with Perez and there’s a fair chance that one of them might end up in the Scuderia. Sadly, one just can’t quite imagine them taking a gamble on the Japanese driver.

As one of the world’s leading markets for luxury brands, Japan is important; it’s Ferrari’s number two market after the United States and the company opened its own office there in 2008. But it’s the strategic importance of Ferrari’s sponsors which counts for more, companies like Santander and Shell. Brazil is a critical market for both and this hasn’t done Massa any harm in recent years.

Then from the point of view of F1′s bigger picture, the sport has been in decline in Japan in recent years and could do with a shot of adrenaline, which the first Japanese driver in a top car would bring.

But above all those considerations, what a top team is looking for is speed and this is where the question mark lies with Kobayashi. He’s proved he can score points consistently and come through the field, which requires speed and racecraft.

Qualifying is an area where Kobayashi himself admits quite openly that he needs to do better if he is to get the chance to progress his career with a top team. He’s been outqualified five times by Perez, who is a rookie and although he’s had some good Saturdays, like Silverstone where he qualified 8th and Malaysia where he was 10th on the grid, he’s not been consistent or fast enough this year.

Kobayashi: Has he got the speed? (Darren Heath)


“Drivers always have to develop, never think they are perfect,” said Kobayashi. “I’m still learning, for sure Peter isn’t happy, they are waiting for leadership in the team. Last year there were a couple of mistakes and reliability problems, but this year we try to score points regularly which we managed to do quite well. Next year I need a different approach; maybe we need one more step, fight a bit more, for sure I need to find some target.”

I asked him whether he can see specifically where he can improve as a qualifier, or whether he is perhaps a tenth or two too slow. His answer was surprisingly candid,
“I know that there aren’t enough strong performances in qualifying,” he said. “The thing is, when the car is good, I’m always okay. But if the car isn’t comfortable then I’m not using the whole performance. This is where I have to improve. It’s everything; confidence, warm up, balance and set up. Then I cannot make a good performance.”

Admitting a weakness is quite rare in a racing driver, even if it’s obvious to observers. But Kobayashi knows that an inability to drive around an imbalance could be the difference between him being a good driver and a great driver and that is why he says he is focussing most of his attention on it at the moment. He believes that it is something that can be learned.

To watch him on a Sunday, ripping through the field from 12th to 5th, like Monaco or 14th to 10th, as he did in Spain, (results which were not achieved by saving sets of new tyres) he clearly has the talent.

All eyes will be on Kobayashi over the remainder of this season and the first half of next. If he can show that the speed is there, he might just get that dream move up the grid.

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83 Comments
  1. Robert McKay says:

    Personally, for me Kobayashi is second only to Hamilton for sheer entertainment value in a Grand Prix.

    I’d quite like to see him progress to a bigger team, just not sure where and when the opportunity would arise.

    1. wayne says:

      Entertainment, absolutely, but that does not necessarily translate into raw speed and talent. He may well entertain us all brilliantly but IS HE QUICK? I do not see how he has even suggested he is a future wdc yet.

      Besides, if he got a drive in a top team all that entertainment value may well fade away as would need to be much more careful. At the moment he can afford to take risks because he has little or nothing to loose. Would that continue if he were driving a Ferrari, RBR or McLaren? (PS I know Lewis still entertains at a top team but Lewis proved himself by beating Alonso in his rookie season with the same car).

      No question that F1 is better off for having this guy around though, no question at all.

    2. Dan says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Robert. He is such an entertaining driver to watch, and even to listen to, as he is so candid.

      For me I loved watching his drive at Suzuka last year, using the hairpin to overtake 3-4 of the guys. The great thing is he doesn’t just stick his car somewhere and hope for the best, the moves are obviously calculated and he makes them stick. I just hope Sauber don’t keep trying these awful long stint stratagies that do not let the drivers unleash the full potential of the car and their abilites.

      I would prefer to see Kobayashi take over from Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2013 more so than become Alonso’s number 2. Perhaps if Infiniti become more involved with Red Bull this could be a potential seat for him?

    3. Mike Monji says:

      +1

  2. AuraF1 says:

    Kobayashi always comes across as remarkably self aware and honest and relatively ego free. Personality wise I don’t see the fit at Ferrari who are bound to take Perez. I could see kamui at a more technical team like mclaren down the line though.

    1. LT says:

      I agree. I’d much rather see Perez at the reds. Koba has too much potential and entertainment value to see him limited to being a lapdog for the next few years.

    2. Aaron95 says:

      Kobayshi & Hamilton both driving for McLaren would certainly make for good entertainment.

    3. Jason C says:

      An irresistable force and an immovable object?

    4. Andy C says:

      And isnt it great to see a guy who seems to be a racer, yet doesnt carry a massive ego. My favourite non british driver by a country mile.

  3. unoc12 says:

    He first struck me as bold and couragous in his overtaking, but thanks to some sauber strategies we have seen him also being strategy wise, good and consistant, almost always finishing in the points.

    To get to a top seat though, he needs to impress a bit, have some stand out races but not over do it to be honest. If he comes out as a number 1 then I don’t think any top team will want to risk him without a better option line up wise. I want to see him do well, but I think when you say that he could end up in a top seat with some top performances, I think soon he will need to fit into oneof two lines.
    LINE 1: top drivers you can count of to consistantly pull the car to the top of the podium, e.g. Alonso
    LINE 2: great drivers who will almost alwise do well, consistant racing, wont bother the top guy too much but will stop others from doing so, and will help in the WDC and WCC. e.g. Button.

    No top team has intended to have two of one in ages.
    McLaren have Hamilton as an out and out and Button who in all but name is the consistant, not fast enough to challenge Hamilton but still a great driver
    Ferrari have Alonso and Massa.
    Red Bull – example of problems. They both just get in each others way. Each could have wrapped the WDC up with races to go last year, instead of the last race

    Ferrari 07-09, Kimi was paid the 2nd most of any sportsman and intended to be top driver
    McLaren Hekki was brought in and dropted to no 2 almost instantly

    Montoya played number 2 to Raikkonen, one of the things that infuriated Montoya

    Schumacher had his bitc…. 2nd driver in Barichello, Irvine and Massa for a year.

    I want Kobayashi to do well, but I think that if he sticks himself in the ‘line 1′ then he goes into a long line with only 2 spots available and hence he may never get a shot.

  4. Alex says:

    I sincerely hope so. Japan really, really needs a hero. After the success of Brawn that should have been the success of Honda and after the lacklustre career of Sato and Nakajima, along with a history of mediocrity in general it’s just something Japan needs. He reminds me a lot of Keke Rosberg: candid, exciting to watch and very fast. Maybe not the greatest driver of all time, but certainly a future potential champion.

    1. Trent says:

      Why is F1 diminishing in popularity in Japan? There’s never really been a top Japanese driver, so it’s not the home hero that used to drag the masses into Suzuka.

      Is it getting less coverage on Fuji thesedays?

      1. James Allen says:

        It’s not in fashion at the moment. Senna era was the high water mark, since then it’s declined. It’s live on pay TV service followed by 2 million people, more watch the free to air coverage which is delayed.

      2. jeffwest says:

        Sounds ominous for the popularity of F1 in the UK James.

  5. Henrik says:

    Troubles driving around an imbalanced car, average in qualifying, but great consistent racecraft and points for the championship, also impressive in the wet? Well, sounds like Jenson Button.

  6. goferet says:

    But with F1 2011-style maybe Kobayshi shouldn’t worry too much about his qualifying since he can make up places during the race, for I recall during the Canada Grand Prix there’s a long period during the race where he was running second while keeping a faster Massa behind.

    And with a better car + improved qualifying Kobayshi could realistically win races for I don’t see him letting many past him.

    As for the dream move to Ferrari – Hahaa not even in the Harry Potter world can that ever happen.

    Japanese drivers just like Chinese drivers have next to no chance of getting into the sport for unlike other sports formula 1 is predominantly a European sport & if it wasn’t for the Japanese teams, I doubt the likes of Kobayshi would have got a drive seeing as his GP2 adventures weren’t of the swashbuckling type.

    Drivers who would have never ever got into F1, if not for divine intervention – Hamilton & Kobayshi which just goes to show, some people are born to do what they do.

    Thank God!

    Food for thought.
    A motor-combat battle that springs to mind – Hamilton & Kobayshi racing down the straight side by side in equal cars

    Who wins that one or does that beautiful scenario have a Red Flag written all over it!

  7. Joel Sciamma says:

    James, the comparison with Jean Alesi is a good one but will he suffer the same fate as Jean, who royally entertained us and has a love of racing that is unmatched, but never quite found the way to make the most of his talents?

  8. Adelaide says:

    I was certain that Kubica was the new Ferrari driver, until that accident occurred. I hope he returns to F1 and continues where he left off. He would be a perfect team-mate for Fernando, IMO Perez and Kobayashi are great, but Ferrari need something extra.

  9. Rodger says:

    Two consecutive post about the Sauber drivers. Is this foreshadowing for the Sauber team page?

    I like both of these young guys, and am glad to see good balanced write ups about them from an actual journalist.

  10. theothercoldone says:

    Not only a good overtaker, but a thinking one too! He has already got the confidence to admit where he is weak, which also shows that he thinks hard about what he is doing – and how he can develop it. It would be great to see him in a Ferrari, or another of the front runners (or even better in a Sauber at the front), but i suspect he may go the way of the other Japanese formula 1 drivers.

    On a related point, why is it that Japanese drivers have never succeeded in this category – it is a popular sport there, and drivers from Europe have used the Japanese formula 3000 category as a stepping stone to Formula 1 (eg. Eddie Irvine)? Are there other factors than driving ability at work?

    1. Alex W says:

      Same with bikes, very odd.

    2. Rishi says:

      Yes I think that’s one of his underrated talents – his thinking. We think of him as an exciting, assertive overtaker (and this is a correct inference) but he (& Sauber as a rule) have been quite good on strategy this year. I also thought Martin Brundle had a good point when he said Kobayashi ‘doesn’t get silly’ when other people are (much) faster than him. Some might see that as a weakness, but I think it’s thinking of the bigger picture; we know he’s more than capable of defending his position (think back to his debut!) but if it’s going to lose him even more time, then why not keep some powder try and potentially reap the rewards later on?

      Re: Japanese drivers – I suspect there’s a number of reasons. For some it’s probably talent – good enough to merit a place in F1 but not good enough to win races/championships (S Nakajima, K Nakajima, A Suzuki etc.). For some speed is not an issue but consistency probably is (Sato, Tora Takagi maybe). For some it may be opportunity – very fast but needing a better car (Masahiro Hasemi maybe. And will Kobayashi fall into this boat?).

      In recent years Formula Nippon (formerly Japanese F3000) has ostensibly dwindled in overall quality (some good drivers there but fewer drivers in the field and a shortened calendar) so maybe drivers don’t know where to go after F3 and tend towards GTs rather than single-seaters/F1. That said, this could create opportunity for some guys; it may encourage them to move to Europe earlier and pit their wits in GP2 etc.

  11. Adam67 says:

    I hope so too – Kobayashi is entertainment. The guy really goes for it.

  12. Ahlapski says:

    Kobayashi will be one of the Greatest Japanese Drivers F1 in recent times. Mark my words.

    Kobayashi 頑張って‼

    1. Nando says:

      He already is.

  13. astonf1 says:

    kobayashi is a superb driver, but when a rookie is outqualifying him most of the times ,it isn’t good for him ,let’s hope he can improve his qualifying cause he really deserves a shot in a bif team

    1. Alex W says:

      it is possible that perez is a gun qualifier like a vettel or a hamilton….

    2. Harry says:

      “but when a rookie is outqualifying him most of the times”

      Inaccurate statement, he isnt outqualified most times. And a team cares more for what a driver shows on Sunday, when the actual points are handed out; Kobayashi 27 points, Perez 8.

      So I personally don’t understand this article, just like (British) journalists saying how Di Resta is beating Sutil, while Sutil has more than 2 times the points as Di Resta, who has very poor races on Sunday.

      After the 1st lap Kobayashi is in front of Perez most times, when qualified lower. Yes, it’s better to qualify higher, but if the car does not suit you, you just deal with it and hope for the best.

      Put Kobayashi in a RBR/McLaren/Ferrari and he will win races. Perez won’t because his performance on Sunday doesn’t come close to what Kobayashi can do.

      1. Ahlapski says:

        I agree with you, Harry about Kobayashi. He is a better driver now than Perez. But I can see the potential there.
        And with Sutil and Di Resta, it is the same. One has been with the team for a longer time, the other is having a rookie season. One would expect the more experience one to out perform the Rookie. This is natural. I think you are being a little bias.

        With Kobayashi and Perez, they are very much equal at the moment, if you put their experience in F1 into consideration. But with the case of Di Resta is different. Whatever I say, you will not listen. But come next season you will know what I mean. There is a lot of potential to come from Di Resta. Mark my words. Thx for reading.

      2. Bevan says:

        Totally agree with your statement Harry.
        And results aside,F1 needs drivers such as Koboyashi,Hamilton,Montoya,Alesi etc,it s all good & well to waffle on & on about certain drivers superior tyre saving abilities & conservative strategies etc but the F1 world would surely wreak if the show relied entirely upon that watching paint dry like scenario.
        Keep up the already evident speed Kamui,your a credit to F1 already.

      3. irish con says:

        if you look at kobayashi last year in some races in his first season he was terrible. canada is the one comes to mind first. i think its a bit early to be saying what perez can and cant do and ferrari rate him very highly from whatever data they can see so i would take ferrari’s opinion over your opinion every single day of the week.

    3. Shane says:

      Qualifying doesn’t pay any money at the end of the year. True it is a measure of outright pace, but we have often seen brilliant qualifiers that fail to deliver on Sunday. I imagine that teams care more about race performance than they do about qualifying.

  14. CanadaGP says:

    Thanks for the nice article James since I’m one of those Kobayashi for Ferrari people. Being Canadian, I’m obviously a Gilles Villenueve fan and I still miss the gasps elicited by his bravery when GV was in a Ferrari. It was perhaps this quality that led to his death. I anticipate that Koba in a red car might bring back the excitement in an atmosphere of increased safety.

    I find your point interesting about how the sponsors’ market are even more important than the automakers market. I can buy that for teams like Mercedes but it’s hard to imagine Ferrari’s car sales not being tied more closely to their F1 fortunes unless the brand has become nothing more than a fashion accessory for very very wealthy people. Japan is still the 3rd biggest economy after the US and China and it is troubling that F1 is on the decline there.

  15. KinoNoNo says:

    I kind of feel sorry Jean Alesi.

    If he had accepted William’s offer of a drive instead of Ferrari’s, the course of F1 history could of changed forever.

    Who knew at the time the Williams Renault would go on to be the dominant car of the early 90′s.

    1. James Allen says:

      He did accept Williams’ offer!! Then changed his mind and negotiated his way out of it to go to Ferrari

      1. KinoNoNo says:

        Well, I never knew that.

        Just goes to show that a driver has to be so careful on what decisions they make in their career.

        As far as Koby is concerned, I wonder if he sees his career as an adventure.

        If events hadn’t fallen in such a way (i.e. Sub for Glock,Toyota pull out and Sauber needing drivers),he would of not of HAD a F1 career. He would be back in Japan and nobody would be none the wiser.

        F1 needs characters like Koby and is more the richer for him being here.

      2. Trent says:

        I used to think it a tragedy that Jean never stuck with the Williams offer.

        Now, I think the tragedy would have been if he did. At least for us, the spectators, because Alesi in a Ferrari was magic to watch!

        I don’t think Alesi in a Williams would have been nearly so evocative.

      3. Bonanco says:

        If my memory serves me correctly that transfer include also one chassis of Ferrari 640 in addition. Just found something to refresh my memory:

        http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/176/Ferrari-641-F1.html

        “in an attempt to convince Frank Williams to release his new signing Jean Alesi, Ferrari offered chassis 119 of the to the British team owner”.

        The chassis 119 was the fifth of a total of seven 640 F1s built. I’m not so sure when exactly they give the chassis to Williams and how big impact that could have in raising their game. Does this deal include the semi-automatic gearbox designed by John Barnard as well, I don’t know.

      4. Jarv027 says:

        Jean Alesi my childhood hero. I have a replica Jean Alesi helmet which i wear when i go-karting, My Kart broke down last week, I actually felt like him!
        But yes i like Kobayashi. We need more drivers like him, but i don’t think he will get a top drive which is a shame.

  16. Dave Aston says:

    I think even if he’s not Hakkinen-fast, he seems methodical, and quick and consistent. He showed up well against Heidfeld and De La Rosa, who are both good test drivers but not mega quick. Maybe it’ll take time for him to master getting the saturday together, but he seems to make the car work in the races. He’s a bit like a Damon Hill or Jabouille, but with the Gilles Villeneuve/Alesi opportunism. He’s top quality; I think Enzo Ferrari would have liked him a lot!

  17. gudien says:

    Kobayashi is much like Jean Alesi, in that they are both quite candid in their abilities, and shortcomings. Jean was #1 at Ferrari for several years. Kamui can be more successful in F-1 than Alesi if he is able to ‘drive around’a mishandling car.

  18. Paul says:

    Kobayashi has certainly been a revelation, but I can’t bring myself to think he could be a future world champion, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because of his disappointing spell in GP2, maybe it’s because I have him pegged as a Fisichella type driver who punches well above his weight in a midfield car, but for whatever reason wouldn’t actually do the business in a front line car.

    If he were to step into a top team, surely Red Bull makes the most sense with the Infiniti connection. He has the personality of a Red Bull driver much more than a Ferrari or McLaren driver. If Webber retires next year, which I expect he will, I don’t really see any of the Red Bull youngsters ready to replace him…

    Also, isn’t it strange to think that we certainly would not have seen Kobayashi in F1 if it wasn’t for Timo Glock having an accident at the final corner in qualifying in Suzuka 2009. Kamui has more or less admitted he didn’t have the budget for another year of GP2 and Toyota were on their way out of F1 at the time. Amazing how things work out.

    1. victor says:

      GOd cant bare the sight of wasted talent i guess!!

  19. elwehbi says:

    One of the most exciting Japanese drivers ever to participate in F1. Some may criticize his “kamikaze” style, but if anything he should be applauded. This kid knows that to move up the grid, being aggressive is a quality which will help him excel.

    1. tmoney says:

      why would anyone criticise his style. he makes the moves and very rarely induces an accident.

      1. devilsadvocate says:

        Yeah, you beat me to punch on that one, Kobayashi races hard and fair and gets past people without going bumper cars. Someone said it earlier, very brave, very aggressive, but very smart and very calculated.

        That being said, I don’t see him shining so bright if he ever makes his way to the front of the field. The racing is just different up there.

  20. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – what do you put his F1 performance down to when he had arguably a lacklustre pre-F1 career?

    Is the Sauber flattering its current drivers? As much as I like the guy, these sorts of questions need to be asked as part of a true assessment of each driver.

    1. Dave Aston says:

      I don’t think the pre F1 career matters that much, F1 is such a step up, and guys who win GP2 titles don’t neccesarily win Grand Prix. Mark Webber has never won a championship in any form of car racing. Kobayashi did win 3 championships (Formula Renault, both Italian and Europcup series in ’05, and GP2 Asia in ’09).

    2. Prancer says:

      Perez did finish 2nd in GP2 behind Pastor – who had around 300 years experience at that level.He was also far from lacklustre in British F3 – I remember one race he won from 14th at Monza – not a track renowned for great overtaking.Kobyashi certainly had a poor time in GP2 – most races you wouldn’t have known he was there.But both are doing a good job in F1 and it will be fascinating to see how they develop.
      As for the Alesi comparison well I think Kobyashi is not quite at that level in ability.But possibly a bit more level headed which is to his advantage….

  21. Pete S. says:

    I’m wondering what could have happened to a guy like Kobayashi, if he would have had a top seat from the beginning. Perhaps he could have just missed being a Champion in his first season by a point and then come back the very next and win it, barely, by a point?
    We’ll never know :(

  22. Mark V. says:

    Kudos to Kobayashi for being so honest. It takes courage to openly admit one’s flaws, particularly in highly competitive endeavors where being candid is often mistaken for being weak. It actually takes strength of character to be able to honestly identify and then face one’s own flaws in order to rectify them. To some he may not seem like a future world champion, but for analytical types (of which this article would seem to reveal Kobayashi to be), they need to have a wide and clear mental picture of what they need to do to confidently perform at their best before they can truly let go and just let it happen. I hope he finds this inner confidence and people around him with the patience and wisdom to allow it time to blossom because F1 needs more characters like him.

  23. Garry T says:

    I am sorry really I cant just quite get on the Koby band wagon. Swashbuckling style more like lets stick it in that position and see what happens a little like push and shove or biff and barge.

    I am pretty certain others could do the same thing it doesn’t make a great driver. Besides he hasn’t any qualy speed. If it cant out qualify his partner now a faster car isn’t going to make a difference he will just have a faster partner to beat.

    Time will tell if he has what it takes.

    1. Quercus says:

      I’ve not heard any other drivers complaining about Kobayashi, which suggests he is aggressive but relatively clean. He’d be up before the stewards more if he was the driver you suggest.

      He’s the racer that Vettel doesn’t appear to be. They need to get together and teach each other a few things.

    2. tmoney says:

      sort of like heidfeld, petrov, schumi, di resta or sutil eh? only difference is they always seem to lose a nose cone or get a puncture and koba doesnt. If this guy was driving under the british flag he would already be in a mclaren.

  24. Mark in Australia says:

    I can’t see Kobayashi in a Ferrari. The politics would put an end to that which is of course, unfortunate.

    For me Kobayashi is up there with Lewis for entertainment value. I’d really like to see him in a more competitive car to show his wears. Lets hope Sauber put in the hard yards and allow both of their young talents to shine.

    P.S. Is this mid season break killing anyone else??? Bring on Spa and beyond!!!

  25. Chris Chong says:

    A bit of a silly question, but do F1 drivers have coaches or schools where they can go back to to hone their skills / learn something new?

    1. James Allen says:

      They do karting mainly. But they need to be careful, as Kubica found when his rallying accident put a hold on his F1 career

  26. Ral says:

    Nice interviews with both Sauber drivers James, thanks for that. It’s a shame you don’t hear much from the mid-to-back of the grid in the news.

    You had alluded to Kobayashi’s admitting to his weaknesses before, so that bit doesn’t come as a surprise. But the way it all pieces together does remind one a bit of a certain Mr. Button. Which surely isn’t a bad target to aim for. Oh well, let’s see what happens. Whatever it is, one more year in a Sauber isn’t a bad thing. Let’s hope he can show a bit more speed and get a good drive out of it :)

  27. Divesh says:

    Koba’s only way into a top team could be if the likes of Honda or Toyota came back to F1 as an engine supplier, if they partnered with a top team like Red Bull for example, then who knows.

    I know Red Bull use the Infiniti branded Renault engines now, but perhaps if they get rid of Renault and go with a Japanese powerhouse, a Japanese driver might be part of the deal.

  28. WoZ says:

    I too have enjoyed Kobayashis driving prowess and his battles with Schumi in particular! I can’t see him driving for Ferrari in the next few years but hope he continues to improve his qualifying and race results. He makes F1 a better spectacle!

  29. CGM says:

    The problem for KK (and other talented newbies) is the lack of competitive seats that are open or likely to open-up in future. Looking forward a year or two or even three, only likely vacant seats appear to be at Ferrari (as No.2) or at Merc (when Schu re-retires). Further, all the RedBull seats will be taken by redbull-affiliated drivers so that’s four more seats that KK can’t hope to sit in. Sorta means that he has to hope to go from Sauber to Lotus or Williams or Force India and then, in a couple/few more years, hope he can get a proper seat when one of the oldies eventually retires. I think we’re gonna have a period where a LOT of talented drivers (KK being one) who simply never get near a decent car.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Or hope that one of the mid level teams steps up – similar to what Red Bull have over the past few years.

  30. tmoney says:

    i really don’t see Koba in RBR, simply because of Helmut Marko. Webber sticking with the team after the transition from Jaguar made sense, but I am pretty sure Marko is not going to source anyone outside of his little pool of mediocre drivers because that undermines his salary :P

    McLaren & Mercedes seem to be enjoying their roles as the british and german teams and I don’t see them sourcing a ‘foreigner’ in their driving line up.

    Ferrari seem to have a strong emphasis on drivers from countries with latin based languages (ie french, italian, spanish, portugese) so not really seeing him there.

    If I was Koba’s manager, I wouldn’t have re-signed with Sauber unless I had knocked very hard on the Lotus-Renault door. The best Heidfeld (or Heitfelt as Coulthard prefers) deserves would be to replace De La Rosa at McLaren. Petrov will never be a world champion, and will only win a race if it is due to attrition or a miraculous car. Whether you want to admit/refute Koba has the attributes of a world champion and race winner – I think it would be difficult to argue that he is not closer to these ideals than Heidfeld/Petrov are/ever will be.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Schumi was German (and Brawn and Byrne English) – that doesn’t fit with your latin bias.

    2. You’re joking, right?

      Here are some Ferrari drivers to consider:
      -Gerhard Berger (Austria)
      -Michael Schumacher (Germany)
      -Mika Salo (Finland)
      -Eddie Irvine (Ireland)
      -Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)

      Here are some McLaren drivers to consider:
      -Mika Hakkinen (Finland)
      -Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)
      -Pedro de la Rosa (Spain)
      -Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia)
      -Fernando Alonso (Spain)
      -Heikki Kovalainen (Finland)

      Mercedes were planning to run Jenson Button before he quit and jumped over to McLaren; it was never their intention to have two German drivers.

      Red Bull said clearly that if none of their young drivers cut it, they will find another driver from outside their program to step in to the RBR team.

      Also, you seem to forget that Webber left Jaguar and went to Williams for a few seasons before he was hired by Red Bull. Don’t you remember Red Bull running Klien/Liuzzi and Coulthard? Klien and Liuzzi were both given the axe because they weren’t doing the job, so they hired a driver that wasn’t in their program: Webber.

      Please do some fact-checking before you make claims regarding the supposed nationalistic and racial preferences of Formula One teams.

  31. KinoNoNo says:

    Here’s my take on what he’s saying.

    He indicates that his main weakness is his car set-up skills, and he looking to be more confident to extract the maximum out of himself and the car.

    Hopefully this will all come with more experience, because as has been pointed out he’s not much more than a rookie himself.

    Also one thing to bear in mind. The last few qualifying sessions have been rather cold and/or wet. With the mid field so tightly packed, I reckon there’s quite an element of luck involved on where they’ve all qualified.

  32. irish con says:

    james with you doing things om drivers at the minute something i would like your opinion on or even a post on is felipe massa. i dont know is massa is simpy underperforming against alonso or is alonso just so much better than michael and kimi was at ferrari. i rated kimi so highly a few years back and thought massa simply raised his game but now im not so sure. it is very confusing. when alonso joined ferrari i thought massa might out qualify him more after his saturday performances in late 06, 07, 08 and early 09. i would like you to clear this up or other peoples opinions.

  33. Shane says:

    I love watching Kobayashi! I think he definitely deserves a shot at a top team. I wonder how much his inability to drive around a car’s problems would subside? I wonder if this inability is tied a bit to the car? I think this may be true of many drivers, but I imagine that a fast car could make many a driver much faster.

  34. ccweblog says:

    Kobayashi’s candid comments don’t surprise me given the motorsport culture I’ve observed in Japan..

    Whereas in Europe drivers tend to adjust the car to suit them, Japanese drivers take the opposite approach and are expected to adjust themselves to suit the car to find performance..

  35. Randy Torres says:

    Not sure I understand why most commenters think that “politics” would keep Kobayashi out of Ferrari. I mean “politics” didn’t keep Park Ji-Sung out of ManU (yeah I know he’s Korean), but talent certainly put him there. I understand the Santander/Shell marketing considerations, but at the end of the day Ferrari is part of one of the world’s greatest conglomerates and financial considerations don’t have the same impact they would at Sauber or a team like HRT. I would think Ferrari’s prime imperative is to, in the immortal wolds of AL Davis, just win baby. For that they need only 2 things: the best car and the best drivers.

    In my humble barely informed opinion, Kobayashi is the perfect Ferrari driver, a skillful swashbuckler, that will make a brash statement in either a F150 Italia or a 458 Italia. Banzai Kobayashi-san y viva Ferrari!!!

    1. Peter C says:

      It’s not money – it’s an attitude of mind (mindset)in top management that people mean about Ferrari politics.

      They would prefer two Latin drivers if possible, but I think it unlikely that a Japanese would fit.

      I was surprised when Mansell got the ride, but ‘Il Leone’ was popular with the Tifosi. However they undermined NM with their support for Prost.

      A vey political team.

      1. Isn’t it wild that they also hired a French driver, an Austrian driver, a German driver, and Irish driver and two Finnish drivers?

        There goes your Latin theory.

      2. Peter C says:

        What don’t you understand about ‘prefer latin drivers IF POSSIBLE’?
        I didn’t say ‘exclusively Latin drivers’.

        Whilst on the subject, you surely don’t include the Irish driver with the others?

      3. Randy Torres says:

        Ah, il latini…the Latin Brotherhood! But of course, silly me, Schumacher, Raikkonen and all the other non latini Ferrari drivers notwithstanding. By the way Ristorante Il Latini in Florence, M-A-D-O-N-N-A–highly recommended! I wonder if Ferrari can be as forthright as Kobayashi and come out and say that they won’t hire a Japanese driver, I mean do the Japanese actually buy Ferrari’s?

      4. Lets put it this way: it would be FAR easier to list the Latin drivers than the non-Latin drivers until you get into the early 60s.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrari_Grand_Prix_results

        That aside, what gave you that impression anyway? What did anyone in Ferrari ever say about a preference of Latin drivers? The only thing I’ve ever heard is that Ferrari tends to avoid Italian drivers these days.

        So what you’re saying is that Schumacher was only hired because there wasn’t a Latin equivalent at the time? Same with Kimi? I guess Prost and Mansell were only there because they couldn’t get their hands on someone Latin?

        It just doesn’t add up.

  36. simon says:

    Kobayashi would need to assimilate into Italian culture at Ferrari, would he or not?

    Maybe for the politics the powers in F1 may not be so sure about an East Asian driver getting a seat in a top 3 team yet.

    F1 is a “European” sport as a previous poster mentioned.

  37. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Peter Windsor of USF1 fame claims to have had a hand in the success of the world’s best drivers.

    Watch this video with his tecnobabble analysis about suppleness of arm movements etc. Sounds like snake oil if you ask me….

    Start at 0:33

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFvPSwzOio8

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Reply to (25)

  38. KobyFan says:

    Thanks for the Koby interview…although sounds like Peter Sauber was hoping for a lot better performance at the halfway mark. Would be interesting to know how Sauber rates Koby relative to his past experience with Kimi, Massa, Kubica, etc.

    The target needs to be 7th place or higher in the driver standings with the odd podium.

  39. Tyler says:

    Regardless of his admitted “weaknesses”, he is still better than many others on the grid, and only a hair short of the top 5 or so drivers. Nothing to sneeze at.

  40. I can take this two ways:

    1) Kobayashi needs to improve on adapting to the car. This may be difficult, as there is limited seat time in the year, and if he isn’t that type of driver, the only way he’ll improve in that area is to have a million miles of testing.

    2) Kobayashi needs a better engineer that can communicate with him effectively to determine what he needs the car to do. If his engineer can set up the car better for qualifying, then he’ll be able to set a blazing lap.

    Now if Kobayashi were to step into a McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull, I think he would quickly find it much easier to set a pole lap since the car is just that much better. One of those Top-3 cars would be better balanced, and allow him to extract what he needs from the car. No disrespect to Sauber, but there’s a reason that they are slower than Ferrari, despite using the same engine; their chassis is just not that great. Put Kobayashi in a good chassis, and these problems will be forgotten.

  41. Gareth Foches says:

    Drivers like Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher, they throw tantrums and bitch about things. Hate them or love them, everybody agree they are the best on track.

    Drivers like Kobayashi, Heifeld, Heikki, very nice guys, too nice. If you don’t have the will to destroy your opponents and be selfish, you won’t win.

  42. tmoney says:

    *sorry i meant prost would fit in between Williams and Toro Rosso, not between Williams and Lotus*

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