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Kobayashi celebrates podium with fans, but what does future hold?
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Sauber F1 team
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Oct 2012   |  11:43 am GMT  |  173 comments

His future at Sauber is still not clear, but Kamui Kobayashi certainly made sure that the fans in Suzuka felt part of his success, by celebrating with them last night and again this morning at another event.

Of all the F1 drivers Kobayashi is probably one of the most active at giving something back to the fans, especially in Japan. He took part in the FOTA Fans Forum at Woking last year and again in Japan this year and has organised many engagements with fans in Japan.

“I’ve been busy since the race was over,” he said in a statement issued by the Sauber team on Monday. “Last night there was a party with fans in Suzuka, and this morning I went straight back to Suzuka circuit because there was another event organised with more than 5,000 fans. In every respect it was a very intense weekend.

“I had a lot of confidence before we came to Japan. I’ve always felt that if you ever want to look back and regard yourself as a Formula One driver, you have to have been on the podium at least once. Without such a photo it’s a bit as if you had never been there. So it means a lot to me.


“It was a fantastic feeling to see all the people in my home country so emotional and happy. It gave me such a lot and I will never forget that moment. I want to thank the Japanese fans for the great support they gave to the Sauber F1 Team and to myself.”

Kobayashi has been under pressure this season to secure a podium for the Sauber team, especially after his team mate Sergio Perez had managed to get three of them in the first 13 races. This has propelled Perez into the big league with a long term McLaren contract secured from 2013.

For Kobayashi, however, prospects of retaining his seat have been quite shaky in recent weeks and it is not clear whether the podium will save his seat or whether the team has already decided to move on and this podium will be merely a sweet memory. There are other drivers sniffing around the Sauber team, which has been one of the revelations of 2012, with its class leading aerodynamics.

With the technical rules set to stay relatively unchanged in 2013, the Sauber is a highly prized seat. One rival for Kobayashi is Nico Hulkenberg, who looks likely to be disappointed by Ferrari as they look set to retain Felipe Massa for another year.

Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn noticeably played down the effect this result could have on Kobayashi’s chances of staying. She kept referring to the fact that, “We know him very well. We know his strengths very well, so we don’t need these kind of results for that.”

Ironically this sounds like the rhetoric used by Williams management when letting Hulkenberg go in 2010; they had evaluated him over several years as a test driver and then a season as a racer and felt that he didn’t have what it takes at the highest level. Time will tell how accurate that assessment turns out to be in his case.

Kobayashi has now done 55 Grands Prix and Sunday was his first podium. He is a known quantity, capable of some very strong qualifying performances, such as Spa and Suzuka, but also with a history of struggling to qualify consistently well. He’s a better racer and and also very capable in wheel to wheel combat and overtaking. He has had only one retirement on technical grounds this season, so he’s certainly had a clear run at it in a very good car. Prior to Sunday’s race he had scored 35 points at an average of 2.5 points per race.

Despite the return of four podiums from 15 races, there is a feeling at Sauber that they could and should have had significantly more results with this car and some of the blame for that lies with Kobayashi, who hasn’t been as consistent as Perez.

Kaltenborn is confident that despite Perez’ departure the support of Carlos Slim Jr and Telmex will remain for next season and this could see Mexican reserve driver Esteban Guttierez being given a chance. He’s served his apprenticeship reasonably well in GP2 and Sauber has a strong record of giving rookies a chance.

Money is increasingly an issue for the midfield teams and there are other drivers around with budgets, who could be placed alongside a known quantity like a Hulkenberg.

With no sponsorship money forthcoming from Japan to back Kobayashi the question Kaltenborn has to ask herself is, can another unfunded established driver give us a more consistent return, especially if they accept that having a rookie means probably not scoring as many points from that car?

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173 Comments
  1. Pierre says:

    Dropping Kobayashi would be a mistake

    1. LJ says:

      I agree, it would be a big Mistake to drop Kobayashi… He’s finally got his podium at the 3rd attempt. (China, Spa, Suzuka).

      If he helps the team to 5th position in constructors and still gets dropped, leaving him without a seat in F1 next year.. I’ll stop watching F1 tbh. He’s my driver by far.

    2. Spyros says:

      Agreed. I can think of several drivers on the grid that are nowhere near as good as him.

      The fact that he’s still around in the midfield, where pay drivers (good and bad ones) seem to have become the norm, says quite a lot.

    3. KGBVD says:

      I’m amazing that there is no sponsorship in Japan behind him.

      Thousands of fans chanting his name on the podium, and yet no corporate interest! Things must be pretty bad in Japan.

  2. JK says:

    Kamui should keep his seat.

    If one had to leave Sauber and Sergio or Kamui were to be chosen between, I can understand.

    But with Sergio gone, consistency and experience will speak volumes, especially if Sauber are serious about bringing in Esteban, which I think is not needed (except financially)

    Stability, experience and continuity are keys for success.

    Count in all the bad luck Kamui had this year…I really doubt that there are any people out there who can honestly say Nico is a MUCH BETTER RACER.

  3. noahracer says:

    Sauber must be looking for a pay driver to replace the substantial $ from Carlos Slim?

    1. Tom says:

      Helps if you actually read the article. Slim is staying as they have Guttirez as a driver.

  4. Jay says:

    Kamui Kobayashi is a great credit to F1 and Japan. He does his country proud!!
    Hopefully we can see him race next year.

  5. thejudge13 says:

    Guitierrez in – Slims new protege (+cash). Massa in – experienced hand tired of not being allowed to race Alonso gives Sauber a driver of experience.

    I watched Monisha being interviewed by Sky and she was very evasive about Kamui. Looked a bit like being damned with faint praise.

    1. Rich C says:

      Did she talk about a Plan B?

      Or did she elegantly swerve?

    2. Koka says:

      Indeed, from Monisha interview it’s clear, that Kamui will lose his seat. Sad, but true.

    3. Charles says:

      I am not sure if Massa could do better than Kobayashi, Kobayashi has outqualified Massa 8 to 7 in a team that has fewer resources than Ferrari. For sure both have struggle with the tires this year… Look at this:
      http://grandprixrankings.com/compare/2012-f1/massa-versus-kobayashi/

      If you want to see Sauber in better form next year bring more money! get a driver that attract advertisers. Like anything in live, someone somewhere has to pay the bills.

  6. Monza01 says:

    If the finances of F1 were organised in a half sensible manner there would be no question of Kobayashi retaining a decent seat in a F1 team, including Sauber.

    He is certainly more deserving of a seat than quite a few drivers I could name.

    Yet because of financing difficulties we see him at real risk of being cast aside.

    Elsewhere Kaltenborn has been quoted as saying that Kamui had not had too much luck this year.

    She also said that his team mate Perez has not qualified as well and as a result they have taken chances on strategy with his car which have paid off and delivered his three podiums to Kamui’s one in Japan which was deservedly will earned.

    This sounds rather like she appreciates what he’s done and would prefer to retain him.

    But will the money another driver will bring cost him the seat ? That wouldn’t be a just outcome would it ?

    1. Rich C says:

      What sort of “half sensible manner” manner did you have in mind?

      I’m sure all the team principals that do this daily would welcome your insight.

    2. McHarg123 says:

      Maybe a move to Force India is on the cards. Nico and Guitierrez to Sauber. Could be likely

      1. Aaron James says:

        If there is any team that needs sponsorship its FI

  7. Andrew Carter says:

    I’d have to disagree with part of this, Kobayashi has actually been more consistent than Perez, and certainly has outqualified him more often than not this year. Unfortunatly that has worked against him at times as he’s made the top 10 leaving Perez to start on the optimal tyres and getting a better run in the race.

    If this is Kamui’s last year it would be a real shame for F1 as he’s an excellent character and clearly a very good driver.

    1. Anil says:

      I 100% agree with this.

      2 of Perez’s podiums have come from 1 stop races (Canada and Monza) where he’s qualified poorly but been allowed to then use the faster tyre at the end of the race.

      It’s flattered him slightly vs Kamui.

    2. Mike says:

      Well said!! If they get rid of Kamui then to hell with them.

      1. Mad Kiwi says:

        Exactly.

        I can’t follow a team that lets an exciting driver go who is possibly/hopefully just starting to get that extra level of confidence needed to move up the field.

        All the comments above point out how Kamui SHOULD retain this seat.

        Hopefully Sauber management have not got the blinkers on…..be it dollers or grass is greener syndrome……I think with good support and decent team tactics Kamui could be up there next year.

      2. shankar says:

        100% agree. Kobayashi deserves to be in F1.

        Drivers are not entirely to blame for no getting results. The team is also very much involved in the strategy and thus I think is unfair to blame all the failures on Kamui. To me he needs a very good team to consistently acheive top results.

    3. DanWilliams from Aust says:

      I also agree.

      PER is no doubt a great driver, but he looks ‘good’ against his team mate cos he’s qualified badly which allowed him to save new tyres, then gamble on a flipped strategy (which turns out to work in their favour due to their car’s characteristics), which allos him to be on fresher tyres towards the end of the race. And KOB looks average cos he starts inside the top 10 and races a ‘normal strategy’.

      This is my main concern for Perelli’s tyres this season is that driver’s who make it into Q3 and qualify in the lower half are usually disadvantaged compared the driver’s who could only make Q2 but now have x2 more sets of new tyres to choose from which ultimately when the cars are equal (as in KOB and PER’s case), the Q2 driver gets the advantage.

      KOB is one of, if not, the most exciting driver’s in F1 currently, and if he is not on the grid next year it would be such a shame! F1 should be fighting to keep him there, no the other way round.

      1. Koka says:

        But PER is really fast and consistent in race trim. In Japan Perez also looked great till his mistake. But they are close, and there are some similarities btw young KOB in 2009-2010 and PER. Same passion for racing and overtaking bravery, but more intelligent than GRO and MAL

  8. Shah Alam says:

    Had Kamui not crashed second from the grid at Spa he probably would not be far off Perez’s points.

    Thus it can be argued the subject of whether he is staying or not would not be raised.

    1. DMyers says:

      He was crashed into, rather than crashing himself; so your analysis is unfair.

    2. Dave Stebbins says:

      That same accident at Spa ruined Perez’s race, too. He started only one row behind KK and, while he was able to continue, his race was compromised. So saying the points KK might have earned would have put him close to Perez, while discounting the points Perez lost due to the same accident, is a bit disingenuous.

      I love KK and hope he is able to continue in F1, but it seems to me that he is one of the drivers who has struggled to consistently come to grips with the Pirellis.

    3. Simmo says:

      However had it not happened Perez would have also scored the big points too

  9. B Grylls says:

    As with every other decision, it would be a disaster to base it on only one data point, in this case a single podium. Kobayashi’s total performance needs to be taken into account and even if he is a good driver, he’s not exceptional.

    I’d place him in the same bucket as Rosberg and should Sauber find a very gifted GP2 guy that they are willing to give a chance I’d fully understand that.

    I like Kamui and his driving style. Would be nice if ge could pick up and maybe raise his level going forward…

    BG

    1. Carlos says:

      Sure he hasn’t been exceptional, but I don’t think Hulkenburg has been either.

  10. Paul Matthews says:

    Is there any chance that Kamui’s result this weekend might encourage some backing from Japan? It seemed that Panasonic had a lot of money to spend on sponsoring F1 in the Toyota days for example

    1. c-m says:

      I thought that Panasonic offered $30m to get KOB a seat after Toyota pulled out.

      What’s happened to that backing now?

  11. Won’t the podium in front of a home crowd bag Kamui some sponsorship now?

    Also, supposedly your home crowd give you a boost. So will this podium be seen by the team as ‘less’ than one in another country, where it is harder to get ahead (perhaps less motivation to push rather than settling for an easier result, if that makes sense)?

    1. Jewel says:

      (a bit off topic, but..)
      one would think that a good performance would attract good sponsorship…. But it seems there is some bad history between F1 in general and Japanese corporations.

      Back in the mid to late eighties were the pinnacle of motorsport popularity in Japan, with Honda’s succesful participation and Senna’s stardom.
      Economy was booming and all was glamorous and wonderful.

      Then the bubble burst in 90′s.

      But it took a bit longer for the Motorsport popularity to come down post Honda/Senna days compared to the cooling of investment due to economic downturn, by the time Japanese economy hit rock bottom, it was too late.

      Back then in Japan, F1 as advertising means were always considered questionable… High cost/Low return. For world class advertising costs, extracted value and exposure never matched in the Japanese companies eye. Big Ad agencies subsequently struggled to bring Japanese companies back into F1 due to its old image of low value for money per investment.

      Now it is a bit different I guess, with Mclaren leading the way to show how hard the whole team is worked to serve for their sponsors…

      If only all teams back then were like Mclaren today, I know for a fact Japanese companies will feel differently towards perceived value for money in sponsorship.

    2. Simmo says:

      You would think so, especially with many large companies now based there…

  12. falonso says:

    Kobayashi is one of the most exciting drivers in F1 and it is unbelievable that he is in this situation. I would put him in Massa’s Ferrari.

    1. DanWilliams from Aust says:

      +1

    2. Charles says:

      Probably you are right, KOB only has 4 years in F1 (including 2012) and have not had yet the chance to drive for a top-tier team. Yes he drove for Toyota but they never made a car capable of winning the title.

      Maybe, it is time for him up the ladder, I wonder what could KOB be capable of with Massa’s Ferrari? Maybe world champion?

  13. CarlH says:

    Very harsh on Kamui if he’s dropped. He hasn’t had the greatest season but I can’t see that many available/realistic alternatives who could do a substantial amount better. A lot is made of the fact that he is behind Perez in the championship, but it’s hardly a yawning chasm. He’s only 16 points behind a driver who has been deemed good enough to join a front-running team next year.

    I hope it doesn’t come down to the lack of money he brings to the team. It’s unbelievable that he doesn’t generate more sponsorship from a Formula 1 loving country like Japan. Hopefully this podium, and the reaction of the fans to it, will correct that.

    1. Mike says:

      Here Here!!

  14. phil says:

    Why aren’t there any companies willing to sponsor Kobyashi? It’s often remarked Japanese fans are some of the most passionate so you’d think it would be easy to leverage endorsements in Japan with a successful Japanese driver.

    1. carsvschildren says:

      Kamui does not come from money. His family are self made sushi shop owners, and his career was sponsored by Toyota in the junior leagues.

      Unfortunately, he seems to lack the connections to “old” money to properly fund his seat. This is particularly unfortunate when you look at the spoilt trust fund racers that have previously emerged from Japan (I’m looking at you Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto)

      It is a ridiculous situation, where the most talented Japanese driver misses out on seat, that I feel he truly deserves, simply because his Dad doesn’t own/run some huge industrial conglomerate.

    2. Ray says:

      What you must remember is that despite appearances Japanese companies are some of the most financially mismanaged companies in the world.
      It’s a great shame (at least it should be) that Kobayashi’s seat should potentially come down to dollars.

      1. Carsvschildren says:

        I know SOME Japanese companies are woefully mismanaged. Sony springs to mind. Fast Retailing (uniqlo – clothing) and Rakuten (online retailing) are two companies that F1 teams should be targeting.

        Both are expanding internationally, both insist on all employees speaking English, and both are making a lot of money.

        Hopefully some of their executives were at the race and signed some sponsorship agreements.

  15. DC says:

    It would be such a shame for Kamui to lose his seat. He deserves a drive in at least midfield team like Suaber, Williams, FI if not better. And Japanese public’s reaction to Kamui’s podium yesterday was a revelation. He’s obviously a new hero in a nation well known for (at the price of using a too strong word) often fanatical support for their heroes. It will not be long before Japanese companies realize it’s worth paying to be associated with Kamui.
    It’s clear that Sauber unfortunately relies on money to come from drivers’ sponsors and they would probably prefer a bit less dependance on Mexican pockets. Hopefully they show some patience with their Japanese star (which he unquestionably is) and long term they will almost certainly see financial benefit.
    Performance wise, it’s clear, it’s never good replacing both drivers, and that’s especially true if it’s not absolutely clear that the replacement is better.

    1. Rich C says:

      “…and long term they will almost certainly see financial benefit.”

      Maybe, maybe not.

      And thats exactly the decision she has to make. But isn’t 55 races long-term enough to get a clue?

      1. dc says:

        OK, I feel I need to elaborate a bit. Kobayashi’s become a driver with quite decent fan-base, something you cannot say about some other drivers in mid-grid teams and together with his, Sauber team’s popularity has been on increase too. Yes, it’s not something that you can put a number into, you cannot really separate how much of this comes from good results, how much from driver’s popularity but you can def see Sauber being much more prominent in news these days compared to some years from past when they were totally invisible anywhere except native Switzerland. Koba is a very marketable and widely popular driver and with increased popularity the money will come. Also, have in mind that culturally Japan can as well be another planet. A lot of Japanese companies have been in crisis for quite a while, the country was badly hurt with the tsunami and even their companies that are doing well can still not allow themselves to be seen wasting precious money on sport in such situations. It’s a matter of face. Now, after the ovations Koba received in Suzuka, some may find it easier to justify sponsoring their newly found hero. Another thing, Japanese culture and way of doing business is generally extremely cautious. It will take a long time before a company decides to reach a sponsorship deal with an F1 team, once done those deals tend to be very secure. Think of Canon/Williams, Mild Seven/Benetton & Renault, Panasonic/Toyota.

  16. Luciano says:

    If Ferrari retain Massa, they are mad. He has under performed since 2010. Alonso may win the drivers title, but Ferrari have only themselves to blame for doing so poorly in the constructors. Give a Hulkenburg a go!

    1. Who out there is better than Massa AND prepared to play second fiddle to Alonso? Young or new drivers need not apply, and the obvious choice – Webber – has resigned for Red Bull.

      1. Dave C says:

        Kamui could do well at Ferrari, hes faster and braver than Massa, so he’d be able to help Fernando better, Hulkenberg is worthy and can be freakishly fast maybe at times quicker than Alonso even. Di Resta is also a solid professional racer and could gain Ferrari a constructors title, all 3 of them drivers are better than Massa and Perez for that matter.

      2. Rich C says:

        Nope. And all you have to compare Massa to is Alonso, so maybe the team knows more than you.

        Retaining Massa is one of the few ‘stand-up’ things I’ve seen in F1 in a while and I respect them for that, if nothing else.

      3. None of the drivers you named are yet in the end of their career where they would be happy to play a 2nd driver role and never get the glory. Can you imagine Kamui being happy to move over?

    2. DC says:

      He may have underperformed since 2010 but he has also proven in the past to be capable of performances equal if not better of some World champions. He needs to re-discover his mo-jo, which he seems to be doing right now. All credit to Ferrari for giving him the chance and support rarely seen in this very unsentimental sport/business.

    3. Monza01 says:

      There isn’t a driver out there who is better than Massa AND who is willing to sign up to be Alonso’s poodle.

      Even worse, it looks like they might only be offering a one year deal if the team really have an agreement with Vettel for 2013.

      Is there a Vettel / Ferrari deal in place, James ?

  17. Alam Z says:

    This is quite sad that drivers have to bring money to secure a seat.

    Like all other sports talent should be the first defrientiator.

    I guess Motorsport was always heading this way and really has always been a rich mans game.

    1. Blade Runner says:

      Motor sport has, as you say, always been a rich mans sport. Look at rallying for example. Even my local rally club events have WRC cars driven by rich kids who even when the events state that no “chase” cars are allowed or outside help apart from in designated “service areas” those rules are totally disregarded.

      I know a couple of these rich kid drivers have service crews paid to look after them on the most insignificant local club events. Its quite funny to see actually as even with all that help and car advantage they rarely finish higher than some of the good guys in old Mk II Escorts!

      I might be wrong but I also thought that F1 has always had a few “playboy” Pay Drivers, back when I first started watching in the mid 70s I was sure I heard talk of them?

      Kamui is a good driver there is no question but is he any better than the other good drivers outside the top 3? ALO, HAM & VET? Or the good ones coming up through the GP2/3 feeder series? He is without question also a nice guy and I think that may be clouding peoples judgment of his abilities.

  18. Nathan says:

    I think this will be sad. First full season in 2010, Kobayashi outscored the other newbies Petrov and Hulkenberg, both in arguably equal or better cars.

    I think he has a good chance of being the ‘experienced’ driver in a lower-down team, but I’d like to see Sauber give him another season. When he’s on form, he’s magic…..

  19. Grabyrdy says:

    The Hulk would be an excellent choice – I really rate him. But it would be a pity to not be entertained by Kamui any more.

    1. Mike says:

      Hulkenberg over Kobayashi? My dear sir, you are quite mad.

      1. Grabyrdy says:

        Well, what I’m really hoping for is both of them. If I had to choose between them it would be a tough call. But I really like the way Nico takes his time, works it out, and gets quicker and quicker as the season goes on. The boy’s got a brain as well as speed.

  20. GQsm says:

    I thought Williams did believe Hulkenberg had what it takes but he didn’t bring any money for his seat and Williams needed money. Is this not correct James?

  21. Josiah says:

    I was there in the Kamui stand, and the atmosphere was absolutely electric! Surely this is a good thing for f1 and Japan as most japanese companies have pulled out, this should lure some of them back! Finally a Japanese driver who could fulfill the dream!

    James is there any word on Kamui attracting new sponsors from Japan?

  22. Truth or Lies says:

    James,

    Be very interested to know what’s going on with Maldonado?

    It seems pretty strange that he’s not committed to Williams for next year. Considering the collective Massa, Hulkenburg, Bottas, Di Resta and Kobayashi situations right now, is there something unusual going on in the background, that may result in some real surprises?

    On the other hand have you heard that Ferrari will confirm Massa this Thursday in Korea?

    1. Frankie says:

      Maldonado will have been waiting for Hugo Chávez to be re-elected in Venezuela. Now that’s happened we can expect a deal to be done.

      You’d have to ask whether Kovalainen will ever get out of Caterham. And it seems that the one second lead that Caterham have always enjoyed on Marussia has been reduced dramatically.

  23. IJW says:

    I concur with others, that Kamui should stay. Changing both drivers in a team is not a good idea, look at Toro Rosso. Having a known quantity to judge the new driver (if he is a rookie) is necessary in my opinion.

  24. I recall Sir Frank Williams saying that Hulk was a future world champion. I cannot understand why would they choose MAL over HUL if it was not for money. What would have the Hulk done with the FW34?

  25. Erik says:

    Before Sauber end up replacing both drivers, I do hope they take a long hard look at what has happened with Torro Rosso… Not saying anything bad about the Rosso drivers but clearly experience in developing the car and pushing the team forward has been lacking. Can’t move up the grid with rookies.

    P.S. James, are you guys working on a mobile-friendly version of the website? I read this on the train to work and your site is hard to load, takes too long. Check out what ESPNF1 has done for instance. Trim it down for mobiles mate.

    1. Simmo says:

      They need a reference point so they know where they are in terms of car performance and driver performance. Kobayashi is Sauber’s best choice.

    2. Pranav says:

      Use the RSS feed. James is one of the few guys who gives out the whole article in the RSS feed. Use that option.

  26. Methusalem says:

    What does future hold for Hamilton and Button, as their “Twitter” war continues:

    Hamilton tweeted he believed Button had unfollowed him in the wake of the news he was defecting to Mercedes at the end of the year.

    However, Button had earlier insisted he never followed Hamilton in the first place – forcing the 27-year-old into an embarrassing apology.

    Hamilton said: “Just noticed @JensonButton unfollowed, that’s a shame. After 3 years as teammates I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn’t.

    Perhaps, Kobayashi could join Perez at McLaren?

    1. yellowbelly says:

      Yes, firstly Lewis stated in an interview that he had learned nothing from JB in their time together at McLaren, then he posts Jenson’s telemetry on Twitter at Spa, & now erroneously accuses JB of “disrespecting” him on Twitter. I wonder how the conversation would go if Lewis now needs Jenson’s help in any of the remaining 5 races?

      1. Grabyrdy says:

        If Lewis has not watched and learnt from Jenson how to get a team on side and make it his own, then he’s a fool.

      2. Elie says:

        No he isn’t because more often than not he was quicker than Jenson – or have people forgotten how often Jenson was struggling for balance half the year !! Of course Hamilton made mistakes at Spa but what most people fail to realise is that tweetgate was Lewiss silly way of ‘suggesting’ he was misled- one if the very many team mistakes leading him to move.

      3. iceman says:

        Elie:
        I think Grabyrdy’s point is inescapable. Button was the newcomer at McLaren 3 years ago and everyone was saying the move was career suicide. But now Hamilton is the one leaving the team. Perhaps if Hamilton had emulated Button’s ability to marshal the support of the team, the predictions about him ending Button’s career might have proved correct.

        By the way I think everyone realises that “tweetgate” was Lewis saying “it’s not my fault.”

  27. DMyers says:

    I would argue that Perez has been flattered this year by failing to reach Q3 and being able to run the opposite choice of tyres to those ahead. This is what happened in Canada and Italy, where he was on new soft tyres and low fuel, so his laptime delta to those ahead was staggering, allowing him to charge through the field.

    Perez has only scored points once after getting through to Q3 (Malaysia); he finished outside the points after getting to Q3 in China and Bahrain, and retired in Spain, Belgium and Japan. Kobayashi has scored points from four of the six times he has got to Q3 (China, Spain, Italy and Japan), with a 13th in Belgium thanks to the first corner accident and a retirement in Europe.

    1. JK says:

      wow.. I kind of intuitively understood this, but seeing it in numbers actually confirm how fortunate things have been for Sergio and how things have gone against Kamui

  28. ttwan says:

    I always enjoy watching him racing! He shows fighter spirit! Hope he can retain his seat next year!

  29. Morton says:

    Kobayashi’s contribution to Sauber since he joined the team back in 2010 has to be considered.

    After BMW’s departure in 2009 Sauber was the weakest mid-field team in 2010. There were no sponsors with them. With inferior car compared to other mid-field cars Kobayashi amassed 32 points out of 44 points Sauber scored, 72.7%. Sauber finished in 8th in the WCC. And a good result allowed them to get Perez.

    In 2010, Kobayashi scored 30 points out of 44 points, 68.1%.
    Sauber finished in 7th in the WCC. (After India Sauber and STR were 41 points, Kobayashi’s point finishes at ABU and BRA secured Sauber’s 7th)

    This year, 2012, Kobayashi scored 50 out of 116, 43.1% so far.

    It does not look good for Kobayashi. But I hope he does well in the remaining 5 races and outscore his teammate in the end so he could leave F1 unbeaten by his teammates.

  30. Kam says:

    I don’t get this. Perez gets a top seat, yet has been out quali’ed by Koby. However, Kobi is classed as a bad qualifier?

    Don’t mean to bash Perez, but he has only got decent results from poor quali’s.

    Mclaren should have made more effort for Kimi (and by effort- I mean made a contract with less commitments, offered JB more cash for more PR work, and new parts on the car for the first year).

    Anyway, I bet Red Bull are kicking themselves once they found out Hami was really looking to move.

    Seb and Hami for 2013, before Seb joins Ferrari, with Webber at Ferrari for one year.

    Good luck Koby, F1 needs you.

    1. Mike says:

      Damn right it does!

  31. hiro says:

    [ there is a feeling at Sauber that they could and should have had significantly more results with this car and some of the blame for that lies with Kobayashi, who hasn’t been as consistent as Perez. ]

    Sorry but rubbish. Plz dont state your personal opinion as if it’s fact.

    ALL of Perez podiums are due to him being only driver with odd, particular and best strategy, often enabled by not going through Q2, while Kamui never had such opportunity to benefit from odd strategy, often suffering from from having less fresh set of tyres due to going through Q3.
    It’s so easy to see how much having more fresh tyre and strategy can make difference. Look at Massa at Suzuka, he did “Perez”, ie dropping out at Q2, hugely benefitting from opening lap 1st corner mess to gain position (he was behind KK & JB by the end of lap 1), staying out longer than others coz of starting with fresh tyres, benefiting from competitors 1st pitstop mess by “overcutting” KK&JB who’d stuck behind STR for sev laps, being able to have clear air throughout the race and push more because of shorter 2nd and 3rd stint.

    Also Kamui has been extremely unlucky.

    OZ: his rear wing was damaged at opening lap mess

    Malaysia: Rear damper gradually failing during FP3. Team could identify the issue only because Kamui insisted strongly that sth wrong with rear, for sev hours after Quali finished. Since you can change component but cant change setup after Quali, he had to race with messed up setting. On Sunday, he asked for wet tyres on lap 3 or so but team put him out to take hedge with Perez. When drying up, he asked for dry tyres alot earlier but again team stay him out. His brake gradually failing and had to retire.

    China: His poor start was due to a car leaving oil patch on his exact starting position during sunday morning support race.

    Spain: Setting Q2 best time with oil spraying his rear tyre. During race, team pulled his leg by giving 1st stop too early and very slow pitstop. He lost many seconds by that, having had to be stuck behind slower cars for many laps. And Sauber is not good at straight end speed, couldnt even get close with DRS open, therefore he had to overtake at abnormal overtaking spot in order to crawl back and go forward.

    Monaco: Kamui wanted different tyres for Quali, which the team denied. Dont remember detail, but anyway his choice seemed to be right one. Then taken off at T1.

    Canada: He wanted to go for 1 stopper, but team denied it and gave him 2 stopper, again opting to take hedge with Perez. Then in the race stuck behind Kimi and di Resta for long time, costing him 15sec at least. Then team changed his strategy to 1 stopper. No one on Option-prime 1 stopper had good race except Grosjean. Many was 2 stopper from the start, or slipped significantly like Alonso. Kamui did well despite having to switch from 2 stopper to 1 stopper in such manner.

    Also at Valencia and Germany team gave him slow pitstops. Dont need to tell what happened at Spa. Also at Spa, his poor start was not his fault, but because team screwed clutch setting.

    He’s been vert vert unlucky. I havent seen most of these things being picked by media like autosport. I came to know these from stories by journalists/reporter at venue and some Japanese F1 magazines, not from mainstream uk media or journalists. Besides, I’m not remembering them all nor catching them all, so there could be alot more than that easily.

    He’s had mistakes and rough moments at Silverstone and Valencia, but everyone makes mistakes, even Alonso, and the ratio tells that he makes fewer mistakes than most other drivers on the grid.

    Not many things can be as inappropriate and misleading as such a claim as “blame for that lies with Kobayashi (read paragraph above. both drivers made mistake that cost them points. In fact Perez had more contacts and crashes than Kamui. also count how many Saubers Gro alone either taken out or heavily compromised) , who hasn’t been as consistent as Perez (very wrong, as I explained)”.

    [...who could be placed alongside a known quantity like a Hulkenberg. ]
    as if to say Kobayashi is unknown quantity, or lesser known than Hulk, which is so wrong. Over the years Kamui displayed his brilliance alot more than drivers like Hulk, di Rest or any of STR drivers, and proved his worth and potential more than enough.
    Anyone who’re looking into it each race, session by session, driver by driver, and who can make analysis based on facts and stats NOT by impression and results only, should, rather easily, notice how very unlucky Kamui has been and that he’s actually doing great job, and CANNOT be saying he’s inconsistent or unknown.

    Hulk is a good driver, but you could also say that he’s comprehensively beaten by Rubens, and is as good as di Resta who was as good as Sutil who was well beaten by Fisi who was…well.
    NOT meant to dis Hulk and di Resta at all, I like them both, but to point out how biased, inaccurate and illogical to make such claim, or in fact this whole article is.

    1. Simmo says:

      Very interesting, hadn’t noticed that. It is true though so Sauber should shut up about it really.

    2. Mike says:

      Excellent points! Bless you Sir!!

    3. Ral says:

      A lot of interesting points, not many of which have been reported on in mainstream media. Thank you.

      The one thing I think people should have been able to see, is that two of Perez’ three podiums have been a result of strategy as much as Perez’ ability to make those strategies work. And it would appear that has rather flattered his driving a little. And still, with two more podiums, he is only 15 points ahead, indicating much more consistent scoring from Kobayashi.

      It would be a shame to lose him from the grid. I hope some Japanese companies will be convinced by the absolutely amazing chanting before and during the podium ceremony that here is a driver who will improve their image by being associated with him and the work he will do in promoting them. Sadly, my brother who works out of Hong Kong and has quite a bit of dealings with Japanese companies, says they are very conservative in their spending at the moment. And what they do spend, tends to be on rebuilding from the various disasters that have hit (more or less) recently.

    4. Josiah says:

      Very interesting, thanks!

    5. JK says:

      Very well put, with data to back up your opinions, which most people would tend to agree with.

      Those who would beg to differ are… well, lets not waste time with them. They are entitled to personal opinions too, no matter how illogical or biased.

      I read formula 1 across 3 languages. I am not going to point fingers or say names, but a few of English language F1 media coverage can be very biased.

      As mentioned somewhere above, Japanese F1 coverage tend to be more factually orientated (less bias)with more technical debriefs made available. As an example, during Bridgestone days, data from wear analysis and expert opinions from Bridestone staff were enough to get a different insight into how drivers were utilising and maximising situation at hand.

      I watched 2011 season F1 with star sports, for whom Gary Anderson(now with BBC)gave at times interesting insight into engineering and technical analysis. All I want to say is that English F1 coverage needs more of those, oth on web and printed media.

    6. DanWilliams from Aust says:

      agreed…

    7. Kimi4WDC says:

      Sums up my feelings about Kaumi’s season. I hope he goes to Lotus next year!!!!

    8. shankar says:

      Awesome!!! Points. Hope Monisha sees these facts and retains Kamui. So far I am impressed with management. But dropping Kamui would surely be a mistake.

  32. marcelo valois says:

    Highlight of the weekend was that massive japanese fans’s choir previous to the podium ceremony. Although they are very passionate about F1, it is great to see how is Kamui involved with the fans. Maybe other drivers should follow his example and try that approach, given their countries’ fans are reasonably that supportive.

  33. Kit says:

    “.. no sponsorship money forthcoming from Japan..”

    Is NEC dropping their sponsorship next year? Darn if it’s a yes…

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      Sony should back him. Sony is Japanese, Sony make PS3, there are F1 games on PS3. It seems to make sense to me.

      1. Rich C says:

        Saw this article about Sony on TheOnion.com which is absolutely hilarious but even the title cannot be repeated on a ‘family’ channel.

        You have to go check it out yourself.

  34. Sebastian says:

    Talking about the future… here is a teaser from Scandinavia:

    http://whatwillkimidonext.com/

      1. AndyK says:

        It seems to be.. theres a couple of videos on this “what will kimi do next” featuring the man himself.. If you find out before the date then send out a tweet or a story will ya?

      2. Ahmed says:

        It is actually a marketing campaign. Lotus F1 Team themselves posted the link on the their Facebook wall.

        Ahmed

      3. Truth or Lies says:

        Looks pretty real, any idea what’s going on?

        Kimi to Ferrari or Sauber is about all I can think, unless there is going to be some major changes involving previously confirmed drivers.

      4. Truth or Lies says:

        Been thinking again, it’s got be Williams, Kimi to Williams.

        Little wonder Lotus have kept a low profile about Grojean since yesterday’s incident, they may need him next season to maintain some continuity. Then maybe Di Resta or Hulkenburg to Lotus.

      5. James Allen says:

        Indeed. What’s up I wonder?

      6. Rich in Norway says:

        Ferrari???

      7. Ral says:

        Lotus have that video linked as well. It just screams Lotus PR, which is fine by me. I think Kimi should stay put and it would seem he agrees.

      8. Davexxx says:

        It MUST be – I read it on the Internet! ‘-)

      9. B Grylls says:

        James, could you do a piece on this?

        BG

    1. CarlH says:

      Haha brilliant. Surely not?

    2. Rich C says:

      lol the guy has a sense of humour for sure. Probably just buying the team with all that Ferrari money he got.

      1. kristian says:

        ^winning at comment

      2. DanWilliams from Aust says:

        Yeah I reckon there’s a possibility.

        There was talk I believe when he first signed with Lotus that cos they couldn’t afford to pay him in money, that depending on how successful he was he would be paid in ownership shares.

  35. GM Grand says:

    Kobayashi was my favourite last season. This year it´s Kimi.

    The japanese driver had som stunning moves in 2011 in a car that was worse. Why hasn´t he had more shining moments in 2012? Any explanations (other than people saying he´s been unlucky)?

    1. shankar says:

      check out “hiro”‘s comments. That will answer.

  36. Nick says:

    It would be a shame to loose his over taking abilities.

    1. To says:

      We have DRS so it wouldn’t be a problem.

    2. shankar says:

      Yes. I only wonder what he would do with a top car. I hope he gets a top car soon.

  37. KinoNoNo says:

    F1 will be dull and colourless without guys like Kamui Kobayashi in the field.

    How did we end up in a situation where big business sponsors drivers over the teams.

    It can’t be good that there’s such an incestuous relationship with guys like Grosjean and Maldonado being untouchable no matter how they perform as long as their backers keep paying the bills.

    1. Mike says:

      Absolutely!

    2. DanWilliams from Aust says:

      Yes abolutely!! F1 needs driver’s like KOB, not rich kids who may even be talented but don’t respect other drivers or their sport.

  38. IgMI says:

    Kamui is my second favorite driver on the grid. It would be interesting seeing him in Lotus next to Kimi.

    1. Kimi4WDC says:

      THIS!

    2. Volvo940Turbo says:

      Yes, Lotus should sack Grosjean and put Kamui in for 2013.

  39. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    I think is about money, :

    * Kobayashi, Hulkenberg are both able to maximise points/WCC dollars,
    * Gutierrez, Hulkenberg have sponsor/dollar-backup

    So James, if we can do the math, maybe we can know who really has more possibilities, if it is not about racing skills because the three are matched.

    Logically, Hulkenberg is in.
    So the math is going between Gutierrez and Koba and I guess have money from Carlos Slim is more sure from the start of the season…

    James, can Koba go as a reserve driver?

    1. James Allen says:

      Who is Hulk’s backer?

      1. Giuseppe F1 says:

        DEKRA

      2. JK says:

        Does anybody have a ballpark figure as to how much the Dekra tie is worth?

      3. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        And RHEIN-WAAL ships terminal?

        Schuberth helmets, Kajes international food business?

        I don’t know really.

  40. Pete_from Nepal says:

    Sadly, I think Sauber are just about forced financially enough to let him go. Kamui is great, but they really don’t seem excited about him, and the money is just not there and thats important for a small team like Sauber. Kamui is one of the most exciting and fastest racers around, no doubt, so I will be sad to see him go…

    1. CanadaGP says:

      Money just doesn’t come to you. I wonder how good Sauber’s Marketing department is. I think most F1 teams just sit by the phone waiting for it to ring. They have to dedicate as much effort at getting sponsors as designing and preparing a race car.

      1. Pete_from Nepal says:

        @CanadaGP: F1 is a very complicated business, and no matter what they say about racing, the companies’ primary goal is always money. I have little doubt they have some stellar businessmen/women and accountants doing as much math as the engineers on the team…

  41. jeroen says:

    I can’t see Hulkenberg bringing more money than Kamui (especially after this weekend), so why on earth would Sauber pick Hulkenberg? It may be true that Sauber are letting go of Kamui but it certainly would be for a fist full of dollars not talent alone (like the Hulk).

    1. Aaron James says:

      It’s worth pointing out that Kamui has scored more points than Hulkenberg, and Hulkenberg has finished more races.

      Also Kamui is only 16 points behind Perez in the WDC and Perez got a McLaren seat…

  42. SD says:

    Firstly, Hulkenberg was dropped from Williams because Maldonado bought his seat out, not due to his lack of potential.

    Secondly, I’m staggered that Kobayashi’s even under threat at Sauber, he’s been a solid driver for them over the last few seasons and has always brought in points for them. Surely if Gutierrez takes the second seat with the same Telmex funding that Perez currently has then money wouldn’t be an issue so it seems ridiculous that Sauber would even consider making the change.

    It’s true that Perez has outscored him this year but Sergio looks like he could well be that once-in-a-generation talent (in the league of Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel etc). When you look at Kobayashi’s performance in comparison and take into account he’s done a very solid job and that podium yesterday just confirms the fact that he is fully deserving of his seat in F1.

    1. CanadaGP says:

      I really have not seen anything to suggest that Perez is a phenom in the same way that Alonso, Hammy and Vettel were. The latter 3 were very fast straight away and had raw pace immediately evident even in a Minardi or Torro Rosso. Perez has had some scintillating podiums this year and his tyre management skills are impressive but he has benefited greatly from the Pirelli tyre situation, not being fast enough for Q3 and Sauber’s pit calls. He has not shown raw speed and after almost 50 years of watching F1, it is clear to me that drivers can learn race craft but raw speed is something that is there right from the beginning or not. You can’t learn it.

    2. Kimi4WDC says:

      One-in-a-generation talent is stretching it. Podium wise, yes, Perez out done Kaumi so far. But as Monisha recognizes, Kaumi had plenty of great performances this year and most of them turned out bad due to factors other than his driving.

      I also would see McLaren snatch Kaumi rather than Sergio. But this is how it goes, lets see!

  43. Wade Parmino says:

    I used to think Kobayashi had a style that would make him a better touring car driver than an open wheel racer. However, his form throughout this season has been quite decent. The recent podium finish has cemented in my mind that he absolutely should be in Formula 1. I hope he is not dropped by Sauber; maybe not a future champion but definitely an asset to any team.

    1. j says:

      Seems like a situation of Sauber telling him to drive more conservatively, and then sacking him when their driving advice and race strategies don’t pay off.

  44. Mike says:

    James, this is appalling. If Sauber ditch Kobayashi and he doesn’t get another seat F1 will loose many followers. How do we get hold of Bernie?!

    1. DonSimón says:

      By the throat if you want my advice.

  45. James D says:

    No mention of your co-commentator in this post? Is he a possibility at Sauber? Was linked strongly with them recently but that seems to have gone quiet. Is Force India more likely for him?

  46. Avinash says:

    Isnt Hulkenburg backed by Dekra Automotives? I am not really sure but I have seen a few tweets of him doing PR work for them. Also he wears a Dekra cap rather than a Force India cap which diResta wears.

  47. Les says:

    I agree with a lot of the comments above – given the (entirely justifiable) hype surrounding Perez, I think the fact Kamui has out-qualified him this season and isn’t a million miles behind in the WDC standings reflects very well indeed. But then again, I am a big Kamui fan so I would say that ;-) If Sauber do let him go, I’d like to see him join another team and come back to haunt them!

    If he does end up his place in F1, though, he can leave knowing he’s made a far bigger impact on F1 than virtually all of his mid-grid peers. The string of overtakes at Suzuka 2010. Passing Schumi on the grass at Turkey 2011. The whole circuit chanting his name at Suzuka this year. I can see him joining the Toyota Le Mans setup just in time to give his old team their first La Sarthe win.

    On another note, it would be very interesting to know how much of the speed of this year’s Sauber is down to the input of the respective drivers, especially seeing as James Key left over the winter…

    1. JK says:

      If Sauber are forced to beg for money and go pay driver route (I am not going to judge them for this) and have 1 rookie and 1 newcomer, then DEFINITELY development will suffer. Signs of being left behind in development will start to show at around Spanish GP next year..

    2. dc says:

      Actually not much. Sauber is a team that seams to work under principle shut-up & drive. There have been complains from drivers in past.

  48. MichaelG says:

    If Sauber drop Kobayashi, is there a chance for either of the old Toro Rosso boys: Alguersuari or Buemi?

    Both are good drivers with about the same amount of experience as Kobayashi. Sauber will need an experienced driver if they promote Gutierrez next year. Alguersuari comes with knowledge of Pirelli tires. Buemi is Swiss as are the Sauber team. I think most people rated them pretty equally. I like Alguersuari and would like to see him back on the grid.

    I don’t know how much sponsorship money, if any, either would bring to Sauber.

    Is Heikki Kovaleinen still looking for a seat further up the grid? He’d be a terrific replacement for Kobayashi – big team experience, can help develop a car (something Caterham has stalled at apparently), a veteran to pair with the youngster Gutierrez.

    1. JK says:

      I was against Jaime and Seb being dropped for 2 unknowns last year. Both were doing OK, and it seems both TR drivers should be dropped this year if last years rules and parameters were to be applied.

      But to suggest Seb or Jaime are better racers…I can’t see it.

      Heikki had his chance (maybe too early) to prove himsef with Mclaren.

  49. Darren says:

    I was under the impression Alguesuari was headed or Sauber. That would give Sauber the freedom to run a rookie in the other seat. I hope they don’t though. Kamui deserves another season.

  50. Tm from Finland says:

    Personally I think Alguersuari will get a sauber seat next year, due to the fact he knows the 2013 tyres inside out due to his work as Pirelli test driver and this will prove a useful asset. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that Kamui doesn’t get a drive with them next season.

  51. Grabsplatter says:

    I really hope Kobayashi stays in F1, and can continue up the greasy pole. He seems like possibly the only F1 driver to appreciate that he really is living what is a dream for millions of people. He seems to give so much back to his fans, which he is under no obligation to do at all. Certainly, when you think of some drivers that do their damnedest to avoid the corporate work they are paid to do, it is quite a difference.

    One thing Martin Brundle said about him that I have never been able to disagree with is that he can be either of two drivers, as the situation needs – when the car is good but behind a slower car, he will pull off his trademark overtaking moves. Always fair, but usually unconventional. However, when he is in the slower car, he never gets in other peoples’ way. Sure, he will defend the position, but never does anything stupid. He always seems to know when it is better to just bring the car home rather than risk having an off defending an undefendable place. A very fair driver, in the best sense.

    Let’s hope Kobayashi gets a few more podiums this season, a good sponsor, and a nice contract for next year. He deserves them.

  52. James says:

    I think Sauber need a pairing which brings money, although a hint of experience. For me, that would be Esteban Guitierez and Jaime Algusuari.

    Sauber want to hold on to Slim’s Mexican Millions, and having a Mexican driver in their seat next year will help keep this in place. Meanwhile, many agree that Algusuari was unfairly and prematurely dumped by the short-sighted Red Bull driver development program. Jaime will have knowledge of the Ferrari engine and it’s short comings. He’s also the Pirelli development driver… i.e. the man who has an idea of what next year’s tyres are going to be like. This alone should be interesting Sauber, as well as the money he could potentially bring.

    Given how good Sauber’s car is this year and potentially into the next, they have a real opportunity here. Kamui is good, but he isn’t great. Time to move on – F1 doesn’t have room for sentiment, as Mercedes have shown.

  53. Elie says:

    Kamui is a great racer and Sauber should keep him anyway they can. His experience and consistency is as good or better than any driver coming into f1 in the last 3 years.

    I have no idea why people are talking about Hulkenberg ! Surely the Force India drive is a more solid seat than Sauber so from Hulks view- why would he move especially If he is in the running for Ferrari no2 seat ( albeit very unlikely post Suzuka). If by some slim chance Felipe was dropped by Ferrari then a combination with KK would be sensational also!! Either way Hulk or Massa would be a great pairing! . But unfortunately if sponsorship is the key here then it seems that Sauber go through this rebuilding phase in. 2013 all over again which is just crazy– but simple how F1 works ATM. This is one eg why cost cutting is so crucial for this sport..

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Because FI’s owner is allegedly almost bankrupt. The trick as a driver is to be in a team on the rise, not the decline. Look at the fortunes of Williams drivers over previous years.

      1. Elie says:

        I like the use of the word “allegedly” .. It’ will be used before the German courts quite liberally very soon over blackmail charges.

  54. Ron says:

    How incredibly foolish f1 is… after Hamilton, Kobi is the next most exciting driver in the field to watch…

    Is there anyone with sense in any department of F1?

    It seems to be overrun with corruption.

  55. Steve says:

    I find it staggering that Kamui is fighting for a drive next year and crashkid (aka: Grosjean) seems to have his seat nailed down via ‘Total’ Sponsor money.

    :(

  56. Simon Donald says:

    Kamui is a fantastic driver and he shouldn’t need a podium in Japan (as well deserved and performed as it was) to secure his future in F1. All of his banzai overtaking maneuvers make him worth the price of admission alone. At Valencia around Alonso on the last corner of the last lap of the race is my personal highlight! Fantastic! Kobayashi and Gutierrez at Sauber would be my personal choice.

  57. Scott says:

    How the F1 world changes. I remember the excitement that accompanied Kobayashi when he first came on the scene. Now they are talking he is under pressure. Personally I hope he retains a seat, he is exciting, he can pass, and he is fun.

    I do understand that he has not been as consistent as he should be by now. But then again, a good result may just kick him up to another level. I hope so.

  58. To says:

    Get rid of DRS then Kobayashi will shine again.

  59. Aey says:

    Except some top driver, I think Kamui can fight with anyone on the grid in the same car. No one else is obviously better than him.

    In my opinion, I even think that Kamui is better than Perez by average. Perez got the good result came partly with luck, yes he is driving well but partly come that he was right place in the right time.

    Malayisa, with the Safety car played into his hand, he got the poisition by luck at that time, the just maintain his posiiton and get the good result, without SC, he wouldn’t get the podium.

    Monza, tyre stategy also play well for him, his car was obviously fastest at that stage, if he Q in top 10, he wouldn’t likely be on the podium.

    I didn’t say Perez is not good, I just said his result partly come with luck.

    if Kamui will be replaced, mostly from financial decision, not by his performance.

    Shame if he is not on the grid next year.

  60. Momo says:

    Many people in (and fans of) F1, including Kamui himself (I’ve spoken to him personally about it), and probably James, hugely over-estimate the popularity of F1 in Japan. It’s easy to go to Suzuka and see the huge crowds and think that F1 is big in Japan. It isn’t. It’s impossible to explain in a few sentences, but I will do my best:
    The Japanese have a different culture/mentality. Simply, they devote themselves. You see it in work and play. Most Japanese spend their entire lives working for one company, and believe me, they are pretty damn devoted at work. Less known though, is that they are the same in their private lives. Most people will have one interest or sport that they are quite obsessed with. They have little interest in anything else. It starts at school, where they choose a sport. After this it’s reasonably likely that they never play anything else for the rest of their life. Everyone has their favourite sport or sports, but I must have played over 20 different sports more than a few times. For most Japanese this number would be 1 or 2. Accordingly, they will be pretty into that sport/hobby.
    The point is, Japanese who like F1 absolutely love it, and go to Suzuka every year. But there’s probably only a few hundred thousand such people (out of 120 million). I bet if you ask people on the street, less than 1% would have ever heard of Kamui, despite him clearly being Japan’s greatest ever F1 driver. His podium on Sunday managed to get him about a 5 second mention at the end of the tv sports news, compared to about 10 minutes of that day’s ordinary baseball highlights. Read a newspaper in Japan, and there’s rarely any mention of F1. If there is, it will be hard to find. This Monday’s paper (Yomiuri) had one small article (probably about 700 words) on the race, and Kamui (bear in mind that’s for a Japanese driver coming 3rd at the Japanese GP). There was a large sports picture on the front page, of Kei Nishikori (ever heard of him?). There are 12 terrestrial tv channels in Japan, and none of them show even highlights of F1.
    Anyway, I’m seriously rambling. Point is, F1 is not very big in Japan, and Japanese companies don’t sponsor because there’s so little return on their investment. They used to because they had a lot of money unlike now, but even then it was promotion for the international market, not the Japanese market, hence only international companies advertised. Japanese drivers were there to please the board (who also didn’t care about the sport). There’s very little incentive for anyone to sponsor Kamui, even if he does brilliantly.

    I’m gonna do my best to buck the trend and get my (medium-sized Japanese) company to sponsor him though. Wish me luck!

    1. JK says:

      Well put!

      Remember the Justin Wilson project where people bought shares in his future, thus generating some sponsorship?

      If there ever was a time and place for someone needing it, this is it.

      Japanese or not, whatever his nationality, Kamui deserves his seat in at least a Sauber, if not something better in F1.

  61. Koby Fan says:

    Koby is an anomaly – a quick Japanese driver with actual ability, no zaibatsu style backing and popular with a lots of different F1 fans.

    From what little I can work out, he probably doesn’t have the personality or political skill for a #1 driver at a top team but definitely would be a good #2. If Massa had not finished P2 in Suzuka I would have thought Koby would be a dark horse candidate for a seat swap.

    I’m optimistic for Koby for 2013 – despite some of the top seats being confirmed I think the driver market is wide open and there going to be a bit of backroom dealing – but not for long. As Bernie expands F1 into Asia, F1 desperately needs a quality Asian driver who can mix it with the European superstars Fernando, Jenson, Lewis, Sebastian, et al.

    Pirellis and DRS don’t play to Koby’s natural strengths and Sauber are clinical Swiss engineers rather than follow your gut racers. I think the Sauber guys genuinely like Kamui as they went through some tough times but if Sauber and Kamui part ways, I hope Sauber end up with the sponsors/cash they need and Koby ends up with a competitive team – Lotus or Williams?

    Maybe Bernie can resurrect a new Japanese superteam – Leyton House Toyota for 2014 with Koby and Jenson as teammates! and maybe throw in Adrian Newey for a return stint as technical boss…

  62. peter says:

    i think he really needs some good performances in the last few races. another podium or two and then he should be better off!
    perez’s have mostly been down to luck – if he can get his on merit (ie. comparable tires to those around) then that is a more impressive effort.
    You cant compare getting podiums when you are on the right tire and the 8 competitors around you are on the wrong one. its like being in different formulas.

    anyway i predict vergne to be dropped at toro rosso and kobayashi to move there.

    (not as good a seat as sauber but a seat nonetheless)

    1. Josiah says:

      If Kobayashi went to torro rosso for a year and impressed, then that could possibly open the door to a drive at red bull after webber retires in 2014 with betel moving to ferrari.
      I’m sure that would help propel redbulls sails in Japan too!

  63. Il Leone says:

    I would echo the comments here that Kamui should go to Lotus alongside Kimi. That would be a great line-up!

    Am also glad Massa got 2nd in Japan, but still believe it would be a massive mistake by Ferrari to retain him for 2013. The guy’s had his shot, give Hulkenberg or some other younger guy the drive.

    Unless of course Seb is locked in at the Scuderia for 2014 in which case guess Felipe can keep the seat warm for one more year.

  64. rb says:

    Well it’s certainly rare to see opinions so undivided on a given issue!

    Kobayashi deserves a place in F1 without a shadow of a doubt.

    As others have pointed out, he’s improved his qualifying this year, but tyre rules have often limited his strategy and results.

  65. Ross says:

    I have little to add about where he will end up or deserves to end up but would like to add that his podium finish my be the best moment so in F1 2012 for me.

    We all like the guy for what he brings to the grid and it was great to see him finally rewarded with a podium at his home track no less. Even if he drops out of F1 and is never seen again he will be remembered always for being a Japanese driver who finished on the podium at his home Grand Prix on merit.

    I loved the ‘Kobi-Kobi’ chant just before he came onto the podium. It is very unusual to hear Japanese fans chat in unison like that. The Kobayashi fan corner was also great to see. In an era of going to bland circuits in countries with no F1 traditions it was fantastic to see such a genuine outpouring of joy for a driver.

  66. johnston says:

    @ James Allen,

    What is your opinion of Kamui being a car developer?

    WHat’s the general talk of Kamui around the paddock in this regard?

  67. David says:

    Sounds like Sauber need a change of management rather than a change of driver.

    If Sauber don’t retain Kobayashi, then I hope he gets a drive elsewhere and consistently beats next year’s Sauber drivers.

  68. Geenimetsuri says:

    Hmm…

    Considering the fanaticism of fans in Japan, Kamui could be a good catch for Ferrari.

    Ferrari and Asia are not commonly seen together, at least from my viewpoint, so Kobayashi could help Ferrari come Big in Japan.

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      Yeah but it’s China where all the money is for buying Ferraris, and currently there’s loads of anti-Japanese protests going on at the moment.

      There was a picture posted on-line of an Audi dealership who’s staff was proudly standing under a banner proclaiming “Death to all Japanese”.

      Just because he’s Asian means didly squat for selling Ferraris to the largest market in the region.

  69. James says:

    I’ve followed Kobayashi’s progress ever since his first drive with Toyota in 2009. There is without a doubt that he is one of the most talented drivers to emerge from the sport in the last three years and he deserves to stay in F1. A lot of Kamui’s misfortunes this year has come down to bad luck and poor race strategy decisions from Sauber. Sauber should at least give Kamui one more year, if not then Lotus should drop GRO and give Kamui a seat next to Kimi. He deserves that at the very least. Now THAT would immediately be my favourite driver team in F1 by far, and I’m sure a lot of people here will agree with me.

    1. Dave Aston says:

      Kimi/Kamui would be a sensational pairing.

  70. Harry Morgan says:

    I think that if Nico Hulkenberg is going to join Sauber next year, Kamui Kobayashi should be his teammate. Rule Kobayashi out of the 2013 season and Formula One has lost one of it’s most entertaining drivers. I love those moments when Kamui provides overtaking moves – he’s very good at them.

    May there be hope in Kamui Kobayashi driving for Sauber in 2013.

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