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Sauber backs young talent and bags Kobayashi
Sauber backs young talent and bags Kobayashi
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Dec 2009   |  12:03 pm GMT  |  118 comments

Peter Sauber has always been a big supporter of talented young drivers. And in his latest guise as a reluctant team owner – having taken back his team from BMW – he is backing his instincts and giving Kamui Kobayashi a drive for 2010.

Kobayashi at speed (Darren Heath)

Kobayashi at speed (Darren Heath)

It was announced today that Kobayashi will drive for BMW Sauber, as the team has not yet had its name changed.

Kobayashi made a big impression in his two Grands Prix at the end of the season, not having driven an F1 car for seven months when he got the call up from Toyota to replace Timo Glock.

He drove a tremendous race in Brazil, battling with Jenson Button and in Abu Dhabi he scored three points for sixth place. What was most impressive about his showing was that up to that point it had seemed that the 2009 generation cars were hard for rookie drivers to master, with Jaime Alguersuari and Romain Grosjean both struggling to get the most from their cars.

With no testing allowed either it was probably one of the most difficult times to come in to F1 as a rookie.

“I’m very much looking forward to working together with Kamui,” said Peter Sauber. “In the final two Grand Prix of last season he was granted an unexpected chance to show his skills, and he made impressive use of it. Particularly in the Abu Dhabi race he demonstrated not only that he can drive fast and aggressively, but also his ability to successfully implement a strategy. I am convinced he has a great deal of potential and will be able to make the most of it in our team.”

Kobayashi also seems to be a hit with the fans. Certainly this website has had a lot of positive comments about the 23 year old Japanese driver.

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James, I read one report that mentioned Sauber were looking for pay drivers do you know if he has brought Panasonic sponsership to the team?

If the pay driver rumour is true where will this leave Heidfeld if as seems likely he doesn't go to Mercedes?


Im pleased for the lad. I thought he drove well in those races in 2009. Nice to see young drivers being aggressive, attacking and also driving defensively.. How many laps did he keep Jenson behind him? Was impressive...

Good stuff. The 10 million he brings must be sweeet too for Mr. Sauber.

Sauber seems like a good solid team to start a career with and make your name in F1.

James do you expect Sauber to go with someone like Heidfeld for continuity or another driver that brings some cash, like say Petrov?


I'd correct you. Not to start but to continue it's career. Sauber well known name in F1 history.


I think he meant from Kobayashi's point of view. Obviously Sauber existed as an F1 team before.


Thats good news, I think he deserved a chance to show what he can do over a full season.


Best news of the off season so far, it would have been a disgrace if he didn't secure a drive somewhere - let's hope that sauber can give him a competetive car next year to shine in.


Totally agree! I was hoping so hard to see this guy behind the wheel next season!


Like MOTOGP, rookies arrive from all sorts of places, some multiple Champions, some chequebook buy drivers, random luck seems to determine if they make the grade in the Permier class.

Who would have bet on Kyo making such an entrance, multiple Cart Champ Bourdais making such an exit ?

Almost the whole Internet's worth of F1 fans are united in wanting to see Kamui San get a drive, that in itself is impressive.


The internet has added to the off-season this year. It's been more entertaining than the season itself.


Couldn't agree more and the site traffic figures bear that out

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

Props to the host: You're running a good shop here, James. It's not all about having the news online twenty minutes before the other guys, it's about the analysis.

(And well-tended comments. I know it's a lot of work, but you're leveraging the insights of a lot of people here, and that makes it an attractive place.)



Do you really think Kobayashi is that impressive? One might say he stood out in Brazil for holding up Button longer than anyone else did through being aggresive in the braking zones (though people forget he took Nakajima out). In Abu Dhabi he overtook Button when he had just come out of the pits, fuelled up with cold tyres and brakes. I do agree he took the opportunity he had, but was he really the best driver available to Sauber? I understand that Kobayshi brings with him personal sponsorship which may have tipped the balance.

My frustration comes from the fact that there are people like Di Resta and Paffett who seem destined to be ignored because they dont have the money that South American and Asian drivers are able to bring.

I'd be interested to know which drivers you'd pick to come into F1 on talent alone.

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

> though people forget he

> took Nakajima out

I'll remember it until the day I day! It was one of those violent wrecks that can make you ashamed to be a racing fan... It just went on and on and on. Three times before the car finally stopped I thought "What will it take to slow that damn thing down?"

The announcer (ahem) said it was a mistake on Kobayashi's part because the tires are too grippy for that kind of horseplay in F1, and I believe that.

But on the other hand, I think Kobayashi is like Vettel; a goofy teenage face hides a ferocious will to win.

(Did anyone see the mask-face Christmas youtube messages from the Red Bull team? Even there, Vettel was competitive: "I hope my message was funnier than the other guy's!")

(PS- It was!)


good idea - yes please James - on the spot - in your opinion which Drivers deserve a chance ignoring budget issues


It wasn't just his battles with Button that were impressive - it was his sheer pace and ability to make a longer strategy work in Abu Dhabi. He also ran competitively and consistently as a rookie in a new car - showing up Alguersuari, Grosjean, Badoer and even Fisichella to a certain extent.

He's proven that he can be on the pace and put in consistent lap times right from the get-go. Di Resta and Paffett may be talented, but that is no guarantee that they'll make the switch to F1 easily.


Yes, but it's only 2 races and yet people seem to think he's massively special. F1 is a very fickle sport - for example the opinion of Jenson has been a rollercoaster throughout his career.

If you look back throughout his career he's been distinctively average (compared to other F1 drivers who have won lost of championships on their way through), yet two races where he has done well have made people believe he's great.

Anyway, good luck to him, he's done well in those 2 races and has got a race seat from it. I guess we'll see how good he really is next year.


Step by step,we are moving towards a very interesting season. Keeping fingers crossed for a memorable season.

James we havent heared anything about USF1. Who are the probables for a race seat with them?


Runoff Area have some news on USF1.

Enjoy 🙂


It's all very quiet there at the moment. But they say they will be there


Well, they have said this since they were selected as a new team. But all the other new teams have moved on from the talk-only phase and have shown some real progress (cars, models, drivers, reputable staff, Sponsors).


Just what F1 needs. A young lad with bags of confidence and talent. I find this much more exciting to read than the return of Michael Schumacher. I wish Kamui all the best for 2010 and really hope the Sauber car holds up to the lad's aggresive style.

Do we know what engine is going to be in the Sauber car?


The 056 V8 2.4 Ferrari engine.


Thanks Guys!

Could be a few surprises from Kamui then!



I remember that - wasn't so long after that they won in Monza as I recall...


Very interesting!

Is it the one from the Toro Rosso or last year's Scuderia Ferrari?

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]

> They *should* be identical

Does anyone remember a story from '08 wherein a fed-up Gerhard Berger of Toro Rosso finally went to their Maranello vendor and asked what the f'n problem was, and after that the engines worked perfectly?


All engines are the same, as in all Ferrari engines are the same, whether in a Ferrari or STR... All Mercs are the same, whether in McL or Force India...


They *should* be identical...


It will be the same one as in the 2010 Ferrari. Engine freeze don't forget.


Fantastic news! He's my new favourite F1 driver, what a battler. If Bernie's medal system ever gets approved he must be the favourite for moving up throught the field without contact. The 2010 season is looking to be one of the best for many years especially looking at the team and driver list.


Great news, agressive and fun to watch, thats what F1 wants. I wonder will he bring Panasonic cash with him to Sauber? Although I read somewhere that he would have to work in his fathers sushi restaurant if he didnt get a drive in 2010. Good on Sauber too, I have a lot of respect for that man!!


Very good news! An exciting talent for sure, can't wait to see him do battle with the established order again:)


I think if it was a German or British driver, everyone would be going after him.

With his previous records and the perception towards Japanese drivers, by no mean racism, I think he is a bit underrated.

I mean when was the last time we saw that kind of debut that makes your jaw drops and say "WHAT THE F-------K" ?

We might have just seen the Japanese Schumacher.


i agree the boy has some balls- totally outclassed every rookie and some seasoned pros. he is my new 2nd favourite if it were not for lewis h


I agree completely. Coming in as he did for toyota, and doing so well, it wouldve been hard to explain if he hadn't been offered a drive. Peter sauber is a shrewd opperator, a great signing.
The driver line ups have never been so healthy. This could be a season to beat all others.


Being a BMW Sauber supporter, now i'm left only with Sauber to support. I'm glad to see we have this guy to drive the team forwards. Just hope the car's on a good level. Before BMW, i've always been a fan of the underdog, so i expect a good year.

GO Kobayashi !!!


sauber has always had a keen eye for talent, that was perhaps more hidden than kobayashi appeared to be - if you just look at the drivers that he's taken on in the past it's certainly quite a stellar list. i'm glad he was taken on, not only because we should have a japanese driver in F1 (assuming sato doesn't get in) but as you say, he impressed especially considering how badly the other rookies have performed this year.

i still hope heidfeld gets the brawn-mercedes seat, but sauber could do a lot worse than trying to keep him on board for stability and to use his knowledge about how to set-up and develop the car, i'm sure the team and kamui would both benefit greatly. it would be a mistake to get another rookie alongside, even if he came with a bulging wallet. it seems as tho kobayashi should bring a fair amount to the table himself anyway


Good stuff - I thought he did well out of all the 'new' drivers - bearing in mind the no testing.

If he starts where he left off then this could be great for watching.


Very impressive. Kobayashi certainly deserves it and might just end up with a faster car than his former teammates Glock and Trulli. Heidfeld should get the second seat; he's the perfect example of a guy who can get the job done consistently, albeit in an unspectacular way. That is assuming that Kubica stays with Renault.


Fully agree with the comments. He probably does bring funding but make no mistake he is getting a chance because he looked decent.

Good to see peter s back. A bit like jean todt. Quietely going about his business.

Go kamui!


Great. If Sauber give him a decent car he should be very interesting. He did great things with a not so great car last year. Definitely a worthwhile addition to the grid.


Excellent news, it's been a long time since a driver has come in and shown potential so quickly IMO. When he was dueling with Button it reminded me a bit of Irvine unlapping himself past Senna at Japan 93!


Great news!!! i'll b supporting sauber in 2010 🙂


Good news for him, he deserves a seat.

Is Panasonic also on the moove to Sauber?


I think so. I'm chasing that info from Japan now


Toyota and Matsushita (Panasonic's parent company) have a joint venture to set up plant for making Li ion batteries for hybrid cars, they already make Ni-MH batteries together. If the Toyota interest remains in the team it is unlikely that any other rival Japanese electronics company would be allowed to be involved.


James three days ego I commented on your site about kobayashi joining sauber...It was a scoop 🙂


Well deserved! Looking forward to seeing Koby battling it out next year. New blood thats not afraid to overtake!


He definitely did a good job in the last two races, but if his form in GP2 is anything to go by I think he may struggle to sustain that for a season.

It is interesting though that the majority of the candidates linked with Renault have made the decision to go elsewhere (Glock -> Virgin, Kovy -> Lotus, now Kobayashi -> Sauber). Do they know something we don't? Is Villeneuve really going to make an F1 return with Lotus now Lopez has bought the majority of the team


Yes it is quite curious that Glock.. then Kovalainen.. now Kobayashi... have all seemed to not be interested in the second Renault seat.

What you think James, you must know something?

Is Lopez wanting to put in a driver thats going to bring money like Petrov? Or maybe Tung, try to exploit that Chinese market.

Still think they should go with Villeneuve, would be great to see him back..


Isn't it obvious? They will be trying to get their drivers in, Ho-Pin Tung and maybe some cash fat rookie.

I bet they will negotiate Kubica's release with Mercedes at a good price, Lopez is a money minded person he is no racer and his track record speak for themselves. He is after some quick profit. Unless of course Kubica and his management were clever enough to have a clause that allows him to be a free agent should controlling rights for the team changes in favor of someone else other than Renault.

I bet Lopez will sell the team to yet another buyer for a profit by the end of 2010 or latest by 2011.


That is how I understand it. The clause is in Kubica's contract. It'll be very interesting to see what's going to happen next regarding Kubica. He might as well land back in Sauber and Ferrari will be closely watching him reeving their engine. I personally would like to see him in Merc. Anything but Renault.

Very good news about Kobayashi.


Excellent news. I was hoping we'd see him in F1 next year.

In the past it often seemed that "pay drivers" weren't always the most talented (though as with everything there were exceptions), so it's nice to see a pay-driver who also seems to have some talent.

Glad to see Sauber back in F1 as a team boss and glad to see Kobayashi being given his chance to shine.

If Sauber have gotten Panasonic sponsorship out of this as some of the rumours suggest then please please please don't let them have a livery as boring as Toyota's..!!


Wasn't Michael Shumacher a pay driver at Jordan? 🙂


Niki Lauda started as a pay driver...


Toyota's livery was its global factory racing livery; apart from the wings, nothing to do with Panasonic.


I believe Kobayashi is another Kimi in the making. Peter Sauber is very good in scouting for great drivers.

Just look at his ex two drivers - Kimi and Massa, both have been with Ferrari.

Hope Kobayshi will shine. Have good faith in him.


I think even I could of spotted this one 🙂


Let's first hope he'll have a good car (what I personnaly think considering BMW must have started designing 2010's car months ago and has surely understood its 2009 design mistakes), and then be carefull. To be consistent over a year is different from shinning at two races, even if I do believe is a good driver. But beeing that good... let's wait and see. With no refueling next year, Q2 and then low fuel Q3 will be very very important...

I also have to say no japanese driver really shinned untill now, that's very different from Kimi and previous finish drivers...


thought fisi wad a favourite for the other seat?


He is - but there is a possibility that Michael Schumacher at Mercedes could thwart Heidfeld's ambitions and thus change the state of the playing field again.


Agreed - was thoroughly impressed with Koba towards the end of last season. Definitely deserves another crack. Ganbatte yo Kobayashi-san!


This is fantastic for F1, and for Kamui of course!

He was mighty impressive in Abu Dhabi, and tenacious in Brazil. I'm hoping he'll be one of the surprise packages of 2010.


Very happy about this. He was the pick of the rookies this year and there's just something about him, an X factor that doesn't come along that often. He's good Box Office. Sauber is very clever to pick him up.


good luck to him although I hope the kobayashi nickname doesnt become bashsomething!! - which it might have done if Jenson had been tougher with him last year


This is great news for the sport. If Sauber manages to sign Heidfeld, he'll have an overtaking duo psed to finish races.

It already looks like Sauber could have a strong season in '10.


Excellent. I assumed that with such a showing, he would be in F1, but thought it could only happen with one of the new teams. Even if he brings sponsors, he's hardly what you'd call a pay driver!


How does Peter Sauber operate an F-1 team from Switzerland?

How long before Mercedes relocate the former Brawn/Honda/BAR factory to Germany?


Great... Now that Kimi left I needed a new pilot to root for in next year's races and Sauber just hooked him.


Kamakazi Kamui


This is fantastic news! My dad and I were both really impressed with his drive at Interlagos and Abu Dhabi. A good Japanese driver is a great asset to the sport, and the right one has a seat this year!

With two races under Kobayashi has two races under his belt, and he already has one third of the points Nakajima has amassed over two years. Kobayashi was fearless when battling with much more experienced drivers. The only criticism that I have of him is the bold defensive move he pulled on Nakajima in Brazil that sent his countryman flying across the track.


Wow, that incoherent second paragraph will teach me to comment without my contacts...


It read OK the first time, Only seemed incoherent after reading your 2nd comment and re-reading it again !


The way he burst onto the f1 scene was great. He reminds me of the Liang Wenbo of snooker, talented and a bundle of fun.


The signing of Kobayashi is a great move allowing much bigger fan base for F1. I hope he will disappoint me as Sato did. Business opportunity will only come in Asia if Bernie can get their fans excited.


This is really sad news for Kobayashi Sushi restaurant. I hope they can recover from this. James, possible to interview Kamui's father and how he is going to cope with this loss?


Dude, are you insane?

Ok I hope you didn't mean that his father can't afford another waiter. You meant that restaurant won't be have more customers who come to see their beloved F1 driver.

But dude he is a FORMULA ONE driver, 10% of his annual income will be around 500k which can buy a house.

Any decent human would pay 10% of their income to their parents, especially when they worked so hard to give him a superstar career.


you are right. i forgot to take the salary numbers into account while posting my initial comments. thanks for looking out!

The other cold one

Erm... I think you missed the point (and the sarcastic humour...)


thanks the other cold one. but i think sam was right here. 🙂


Think Koby is the most promising driver we've seen come out of Japan . . . though he has only had a couple of races. Great that Sauber is giving him a seat. Hope he does well.


Absolutely delighted with the news !

Peter Sauber thank you very much .


Thanks god, we can't afford to miss on a talent like this one.

If he becomes a star, toyota are going to be sorry for quitting too soon.

Just imagine he becomes a gp winner, the lost marketing potential for the japanes giant.


James, any news on how long the contract is?

Peter's usually a canny operator. He tied in Kimi for a few years, and lost Red Bull, but made a mint when he sold the contract to McLaren.

Hiring Kamui wasn't the work of genius. After his debuts, it would have been downright potty if he hadn't get a seat. I suspect he had a few choices, and was waiting to see if Sauber got the entry...

Paige Michael-Shetley

Kobayashi is a very curious case. There is no debating that his GP2 career was highly undignified; sure, you can argue that he didn't exactly have the best car, but he was also beaten by a teammate who isn't really on the F1 map right now. Yet he got into the F1 car- and one which was perhaps at the upper end of the mid-pack, at best- and did a very nice job with it.

Theoretically, this will help Peter Sauber secure some sponsorship money, which I suspect might be a part of this deal. We've already heard, for instance, that Panasonic wants to stay in F1.

Could this news have some implications for the Mercedes seat? Perhaps Schumacher really isn't coming back, and they've chosen Heidfeld? Presumably, Sauber will be putting Fisichella in one of his seats as an accessory to the Ferrari engine supply deal.

Then again, there's the open seat at Renault/Genii that Heidfeld could take.


Great news for all of us with Mobayashimania!

James, did you see that Andrew Benson on the BBC is recommending your book for Christmas? Mine is being delivery by the usual bloke in a red suit on the 25th!

Happy Christmas!


I've completed your book James and its brill! Already looking forward to next years!


Who do you think will be the more likely to partner Kobayashi next year James?

Heidfeld or Fisichella? Personally I'm routing for Fisi!


Excellent News - Go Koby!!

Where do I get a Koby cap??

James, just like to say, excellent website and keep up the fantastic work.


here here. its in my top five site everyday for f1 news.

the once great has nothing on this blog james. well done my friend.


The author of still covers F1, but he's cultivating a blog like James is here.


Historically, Japanese drivers have either gone stale very quickly or been somewhat accident prone - or both! It would be good to see this young Samurai break that mould while still retaining his fire.

Having been with Toyota for a couple of years, Kobayashi should be reasonably well versed in F1 corporate behaviour, too.

An experienced team mate will be helpful in judging him (and the car) consistently and should would also help prevent him losing his way by trying to lead a team too soon. Of the available drivers, Heidfeld would be my choice over Fisichella, as I believe him the quicker and better at development. De la Rosa could be a coup, though, taking the esteemed McLaren tester into Ferrari territory.


Good to see kobayashi get another chance in F1, he's an exciting talent and if he brings that Panasonic money with him, he a team managers dream, i would have went and got him just for the cash


It surprises me that Kobayashi has not really shown the level of form he demonstrated in F1, in other lesser series. There is no doubt that in the two races in F1 he excelled, but the only reason I could see why he got the seat was the fact he is Japanese. I don't think this is a false dawn from what we have already witnessed in F1, but the performances definitely surprised me based upon his racing history.


Kobayashi to Ferrari 2012. I am calling it.


That is a bold claim, but you may not be far off 😀

If he can pull those two races without proper testing he can only get better pace wise. What will not change is that gutsy racer attitude.

Kamui will have known already how much the fans enjoyed those it will only spur him on much more. He will be a beast on track. A driver others will fear (reminds me of Senna in his aggressive overtaking mind games)

Crid [CridComment @ gmail]



That would be interesting indeed.

I'm curious how the Italians would handle a Japanese driver given their very contrary cultures.



2012 will be vettel to Hamilton or one of those padawan learners 😉


"Kobayashi also seems to be a hit with the fans."

He seems to be a quick, aggressive, racing driver with deep self belief. What's not to like? Congratulations Kobayashi. Williams must wish Toyota installed Kobayashi instead of Nakajima for engines this past year.


This kid had verve and style and impressed in his races at the end of the year.

I am glad to see the expansion and new teams-F1 was painting itself into a corner with no testing and no "minnow" teams to develop new talent.

If Sauber could bag Nick H. they would be in fair shape on the driver side.


Yes.... good news... but no more than that...

To be honest, reading the above coments, it comes across that you have all been following Formula 1 for.... 1 year!

The history of the sport is littered by drivers who made a great debut.. that fizzled out as fast... 2 grandprix do not make a summer... If you thought this was was your only chance.. you would be a bit more aggressive and risky than you might for a whole campaign..

Do you not all remember a certain Jos Verstappen.. who boldly over took a certain Michael Schumacher... well he was going to be the next world champion as well!!

BUT yes what we saw was encouraging and I am glad he has the chnce to prove himself... but do not hold your breath... again do you not remember Alexander Wurz's debut...


Fair point Montaya was one of them.But then both Lewis and MS did impressive stuff but Kaumi was more impressive IMO.




Ha ha now that's funny


Glad he's been given a race seat. He was fantastic in Brazil in the race. Good to see someone not afraid to go at it.


Great news for F1 that another exciting driver is going to be in the mix.

Received my Revolutionary year book today James.

Great read so far 🙂 Must get off the internet and go read some more.


I thought Kobayashi was brill in his 2 races. However I also remember Alex Wurz making a big splash in his early races. I'm unconvinced that Kobayashi will make the grade but I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.


This is good news and I think Peter Sauber has made a clever decision here as he has the only Japanese dirver on the grid to attract all the Japanese sponsors.

I hope Kamui can keep up with what he has shown us in the last 2 races.


So gald he has a drive. Should F1 teams start taking drives who do not perform good in GP2?


Huzzah and Hurrah! If starts where he left off, then I'm going to have a new favourite driver for 2010.

Good on Peter Sauber for bagging him. Hopefully he'll scale the heights some other Sauber finds have.


Poor old sato... out in the cold seat now


I leapt for joy when I heard the news. Great stuff. Can't wait to see what he can do next season, and I'll be supporting him all the way!

Many here are talking about him bringing Panasonic backing, but having read above that they're doing some factory stuff with Toyota, that is seeming more unlikely. I'm thinking more Fujitsu for some reason.

Anyways, I'm glad for Kamui, and for Peter too. Here's to a fruitful 2010.

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