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F1 finds a new hero in Kobayashi
F1 finds a new hero in Kobayashi
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Nov 2009   |  10:40 pm GMT  |  91 comments

For the second race in a row, Kamui Kobayashi has set the place alight with some bold driving and given the lie to the theory that F1 is too tough for rookie drivers. He finished sixth today, ahead of team mate Jarno Trulli.

Starting his second Grand Prix in 12th place, he was the second best placed of the cars on a one-stop strategy today, after Kimi Raikkonen, but he finished well ahead of the Ferrari driver. His strategy brought him into contact with Jenson Button again. The pair had had a battle in Brazil, after which Button said Kobayashi was ‘crazy’.

Today they came into contact just after Button’s first stop on lap 17. At this point Kobayashi had another 13 laps to go until his stop, so the difference in fuel weight between the two cars was 12 laps, worth about a second per lap. Kobayashi had a go and Button outbraked himself trying to hold him off.

“The first big stop is turn eight and when you have got that much fuel on board it is always very difficult to judge the braking point,” said Button. “I slightly outbraked myself and locked the rears and the fronts and ran a bit wide and he got past. In reality it didn’t make a difference to my race as he was quicker than me at that point.”

Button was wary of Kobayashi. He raced him, but was forced into a mistake, which reflected well on Kobayashi. It also showed, arguably, that Button still wasn’t able to shake off the mentality of protecting a championship lead, rather than going for it, even though the championship was over. Kobayashi had nothing to lose and so was able to fight his ground.

At that stage both men had one more pit stop to make. Button was being told by his race engineer Andrew Shovlin that Kobayashi was the guy he was racing against. By the time the Japanese made his stop on lap 30 he was seven seconds ahead of Button. At this point he switched to the soft tyre. He lost 17 seconds to Button over the next 12 laps, mainly because it took him a few laps to settle into a rhythm on the soft tyre. Button pushed very hard in this phase and when Button made his second stop on lap 42 he emerged 10 seconds ahead of Kobayashi.

Tonight Toyota boss John Howett pretty much implied that Kobayashi had done enough in his two races to secure the seat for next season – provided that the Toyota main board votes to stay in the sport at its crunch meeting on November 15th.

“It looks like it,” he said “We will have to give really serious consideration, as he has really shown very good strong results.

“I am very impressed. We were very happy again. What we like is his real fighting spirit. He is not intimidated by anybody. It’s very positive.”

I had a chat with Kobayashi on Friday and as he used his hands to illustrate how he had positioned his car relative to Button’s in Brazil, I noticed that he has a tattoo on his right wrist which he covers up with a leather bracelet. It is hard to see exactly what the tattoo says, but the first two characters are “F1”. On his other wrist is the blingiest Breitling watch I have ever seen.

Kobayashi has made a very positive impression; he’s a fighter, he’s clearly quick and if he can find consistency in qualifying and a bit more pace at the beginning of a stint after a pit stop, he might well turn out to be a real diamond.

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Toyota announced today that they are out of Formula One as of now so….

I do hope another team takes up Kobayashi..


Unfortunately this all seems a little bit elementary now with Toyota’s withdrawal this morning.

I wonder can he pick up a ride elsewhere? He certainly did impress on his 2 outings but I can’t help feeling that there is some more deserving talent out there that would likely have impressed just as much had they been given an opportunity of 2 end-of-season drives in a works car.


Well we don’t need Alguersari and Grosjean back… There must be a place open still somewhere then. After all, there’s 24 seats. And 26 possibly if Sauber makes a comeback now that Toyota is out.


shame for kobayashi that toyota have pulled out of F1. i guess he will have a very busy sushi restaurant now tho!


November 4 and the news coming out of Japan is that Toyota will leave F1 at the end of the year – its a sad say


Where did my replies and the replies to those go? Lost in one of the site crashes or something?


Kobayashi is the hungriest driver out there. He is going to eat up the competition.


Toyota F1 have never had a personality…they’ve just been there going through the motions, or so it seems. They need a kick in the pants, and Kobayashi may be just the ticket. I hope they give him some rope rather than smother him the corporate blanket. And, as Adam Taylor says, F1 needs a character like Kobayashi.

Added bonus- the guy can drive.


Kobayashi reminds me not a little of Alonso when he came on the scene: Fearless, focused, and willing to mix it up. It’s easier to see because the Toyota is a better car than the Minardi was, but he has The Look.

Paige Michael-Shetley

I’m just amazed that Kobayashi has done as well as he has despite the fact his GP2 career was, by all accounts, absolutely rubbish. Not only did he not perform well or show much pace, but he was pretty soundly beaten by his teammate, Jerome D’Ambrosio (who must be on suicide watch right now).

His pace has been there since his practices in Japan. He was only a couple of tenths in single-lap pace off Trulli in Brazil, and he had more consistent pace there than Trulli did. It’s the same story in Abu Dhabi, although he was even quicker in the race than he was in Brazil.

It’s true that Nakajima got off to a good start in his F1 career, but he benefited greatly from retirements. I thought Kobayashi would be the same story, but he just isn’t; his pace in Abu Dhabi was genuine and excellent. He’s definitely earned his place in F1, and he’s done so despite having no testing during the season.


Nice to know. I remember Michael Schumacher was in similar straits during his debut for Jordan at Spa. And Schumacher also was rather unimpressive in the lower levels of the sport.

I hope Toyota stays, and hope Kobayashi sticks to it as well…


Wow what a great drive, two races in a row very impressive. I hope we see him next year as he’s a breath of fresh air, he need more drivers like him. He may even save Toyota from pulling out!


Of course, flawless logic… :s


I think what Kobayashi has shown is that under achieving in GP2 does not necessarily mean a lack of race craft to enter F1. As mentioned earlier, Piquet Jr and Grosjean both did well in GP2 but have since looked unimpressive. Should be most interesting to see how Hulkenberg does at Williams in 2010.


Formula One has been missing a driver like this for many years, someone that is not afraid to speak his mind. The last driver I think that was in a similar mould was possibly Eddie Irvine. I used to love the fact that if ever the media were short of stories they used to head over to him to get a quote on a situation which he always seemed to give an honest opinion about the situation.

Before his introduction to the upper echelon of the sport there didnt seem to be a big fuss being made about the Japanese driver, whether its because there were better drivers around him or the car itself didnt seem to suit his style of driving. But i hope that he can take another step and as you said James and add a bit of performance here and there with consistency he can become a very marketable comodity. A Japanese driver in a Japanese car and engine mixed with Japanese tyers (well until the end of 2010 anyway)

Although it is early in his career, Toyota seemed to have stumbled onto a great prospect for the future and just hope that they dont throw away the opportunity by pulling out of Formula 1 and risk losing possibly one of the best chances it has to finally climb up the grid.


What is with so many people here wanting McLaren to get Kobayashi? Must be predominantly British posters on this site.

Kobayashi will race with Toyota before he races for any other team.

Toyota are 99% confirmed for next year, I really don’t understand why people think they won’t be racing next year.

Paige Michael-Shetley

It’s way too early for Kobayashi to go to a top team. He needs to prove himself over a season, even if he is off to a good start.


Who says they are 99% confirmed? How can you be 99% confirmed? It either is or isn’t.


All sources and insiders close to Toyota say they will definitely be there next year. The “1%” that’s left is simply an official statement.


Have you got any tips for the Grand National next year?


Following todays comments i guess the 1% was a pretty big one!


Haha Nice one! Its the same as being 50% certain!


As my old boss used to say “it’s like being pregnant, either you are or you aren’t”.

I guess we will have to wait until November 15th.


Hi James,

a friend of mine who volunteered at the last GP said many Toyota personnel were spotted visiting other teams’ paddocks, and there was alot of speculation that they were told to find new jobs. Today, there is an announcement from Toyota that they will announce their f1 future on Sunday.

Do you think this is due to the cost cutting measures that Toyota personnel are being laid off, or is there a higher chance of them withdrawing? I would hate to see Kobayashi end up making sushi!


the samurai has landed.


Or maybe Ninja….Did anyone see that coming?


He lit up the race, made the World Champ look ordinary for the second week in a row. He’s the most exciting rookie driver since Hamilton. If Toyota don’t stay another team must take him.


They say 99% of all Breitling’s available on the net are fakes – Japan is only a short jump from Shanghai, where you can’t go 15ft without someone saying watch, watch, mont blanc…. I’m sure it’s real! Anyway it seems everyone in F1 has a huge watch on their wrist!

Seriously – Kamui-san has been a real star for Toyota, he’s shown no fear of the big boys and really attacked the track. It’s been exciting to watch.

I didn’t think Toyota would stay in F1 beyond Nov 15th – maybe Kobayashi & Sato pairing will convince them to stay a while longer..


A german webpage posted an interview with Kabayashi today. Kobayashi basically has run out of money. He cannot afford another racing season in Europe. He now has got two options: Get a F1 drive with Toyota next year or end his career, which means to go back to Japan to work in his father’s sushi-restaurant. Substituting Glock really was his last resort. This guy had so much pressure on his shoulders during his first two races in F1 and has done so well. Courage born out of desperation. Outstanding.


Well done Mr Kobayashi. You have entertained us all. I’m sure you’ll get a drive next season. F1 needs your enthusiasm and passion, so do fans.

X factor possessing driver is becoming more or less a standard in F1. I can see less creative drivers being phased out in near future. People like Trulli, Kubica(and I am his fan) and even Alonso will have to raise their game.


Its a shame he didn’t have the chance in Japan. I had my doubts at first and thought it could have been a political or commercial decisiion on Toyota F1 to try to fire up the board a bit.

However, having seen him race twice I think Toyota will be kicking themselves for having a raw home talent sat on the shelf for 2 years.

Bye Bye Jarno, no pictures or drivers meetings will show this in any other way than you got whupped by a rookie.


I agree, I said at the time that Toyota should have had the courage of their convictions to put him in the car all weekend in Japan (bet Glock wishes they had now!)


First off, go easy on Button for not passing Webber. The guy in front is always going to have the advantage and Webber is a great scrapper and a top-level driver, no shame in losing out to him.

Re Kobayashi, the one concern I would have is that his GP2 career was unremarkable. Was he with an underfinanced team? I’m just not convinced of his ultimate pace yet…

I was hugely impressed by his spirit in Brazil, even more so when he ended up ahead of Trulli in the race (assuming they gave the departing Italian equal equipment).

I’d love to think KK had the pace to match his racecraft. He’s a very exciting swashbuckler, we need more like him…


+1 for Kobi

I hope he stays in F1 with or without Toyota.

He’s a true racer!


interviews have shown he’s a top bloke as well – hope to see him in F1 next year 🙂


James, any possibility that Kobayashi will drive for McLaren in 2010?

After all, Raikkonen had only been in F1 for one season when he joined them and Hamilton was a rookie.


Apart from Hamilton, McLaren have not been known to take rookies

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, does this stem from their Michael Andretti experience?!


it could be. But when dennis was in charge, the reason he didn’t hire italians was because of andrea de cesaris. In the 1981 season, he had something like 18 accidents, some of them damaging the chassis. The first carbon fiber in history. May be the reason he is alive today.

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