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The return of one of the F1 fans’ favourites
Posted By:   |  22 Jan 2014   |  4:03 pm GMT  |  99 comments

The announcement that Kamui Kobayashi is returning to the F1 grid this year with Caterham was greeted positively by F1 fans and it was noticeable in the Caterham factory yesterday how buoyed the team were with his signing.

Kobayashi lost his place on the F1 grid in 2013 because he couldn’t rustle up a budget, with Japanese businesses unwilling to find him. He has returned on a deal whereby he appears to be racing effectively for nothing, with Caterham believing that preferable to running a pay driver with less talent and pulling power with fans.

Now he’s regained his place, Kobayashi believes that Honda’s return to Formula One as an engine supplier in 2015 will offer fresh possibilities to get support in Japan to cement his place on the grid long term.

After two Grands Prix for Toyota in 2009, a successful three years with Sauber followed, including a popular Suzuka podium in 2012 that thrust him in to the limelight and made him the best Japanese driver of his generation. But with budget constraints restricting his ability to compete last year, he joined Ferrari’s GT team and turned his attention to a 2014 race seat.

“I have to say, I think with Honda returning to Formula One there is more chances for us,” said Kobayashi at the Caterham HQ yesterday.

“After announcing that I am driving for Caterham today it will take one or two years, but next year there will be more of a chance, when Honda are back. There will be a bigger TV audience and more media.”

As with all returning and rookie drivers in Formula One budget plays a vital role, and without it a driver needs to have an exceptional talent to take a seat at one of the best teams – examples like Lewis Hamilton in 2007 and Kevin Magnussen this year are few and far between. And with Kobayashi racing unpaid this year it gives a sign of the determination needed to have the eventual shot at a bigger team.

Kobayashi reiterated this by saying that he spoke to a couple of teams required backing from him, and as he could not match their requirements he had to look elsewhere. When asked at what point he first met Tony Fernandes, Kobayashi said that the end of December was the first time they had met to discuss their 2014 plans.

This is surprising given his time out of Formula One last year and prompted a question regarding whether he had spoken to other teams.

“Well I was talking with other teams, but it’s all about money. They say that if we could bring a sponsor then they would hire me, but I can never get a sponsor. So that’s why I had no previous chances.”

Kobayashi became a fan favourite thanks to his battling style, with some sublime overtakes. However he would be the first to admit he struggled with consistency, especially in qualifying performance. He and Caterham have a programme to work on this in the simulator and it will be very interesting to see whether he can raise his consistency level to the point where he is able to deliver close to the maximum every qualifying session.

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Bruno Senna is only a paydriver with a famous name.


Thanks Mike!

You know I have never heard that before! 🙂

Your well placed, well informed in depth analysis and opinion have changed my appreciation of the entire sport!

THANK YOU!!!!! 🙂



I agree with Mike. Bruno Senna does not have enough talent to stay at Formula One.


Kobayashi-san! Ganbare! I love you!



This is fantastic news! Well done Caterham!!

Kobayshi San, Banzai!!!!!


I think Kamui the opportunist man, that grabing the chances in front of him.

May his talent bringing Caterham to the midfield team and why not the team be there?


Great news, hes fun to watch. In the words of my 70 year old mother who is a die hard F1 fan… “Kobayashi is a scrapper and has balls”.

Glad to see him back


I can’t believe it! This is so awesome, 2014 may be a great year in F1 after all. New regulations could shake things up and there is a great, aggressive, chippy driver coming back into a team that could very well break into the midfield this year. Caterham seem to be a well positioned team to make a move up the F1 ladder.

I’ve always wondered why a team like Caterham don’t design a car that is a specialist, just focus development on Spa, Suzuka or Monza, or even Monaco. Obviously not for a win as that is a bar too high, but for maybe getting good points?


Surely, someone is paying him, no?

Anyway, I’m glad to see him back in the paddock, and I’m actually looking forward to his soon to be legendary duels with Marussia ace Jules Bianchi .


Kamui driving for free is cheapening the sport and putting more precedence on the driver market in a bad direction. Once teams get used to free drivers they will want more free things from the driver. Kamui must have been desperate to say least.

Also if he is so popular than why can’t he get any sponsors???


Curious to know what it really means when you say “driving unpaid”? Absolutely nothing, not even travel and accommodation? Any bonus/incentives for points?


I mat sound,naive but… to hire someone because he is driving for free seems to display a lack of class…

Unless some detail is missing, He literally brings in money for the team but none of which is for himself…

Team only pays for everyday expense such as hotel and travel…

If you are at that point where drivers gets nothing as a monetary return, how do even,dare to call themselves a “team”…



Do you think Kamui burned a bridge by leaving Ferrari?


No, I think he wanted to race again and that chance would not have come from where he was at Ferrari


James is it true that Stefano was willing to offer him more testing roles with the simulator? Could that have led to a seat?



Next to Fernando, this chap

is back to being my fave on

an F1 grid.

Well done, Kamui.


Kobayashi is good but not great. Bruno Senna is not great either but at least he did better last year (in the WEC), so he deserved even more to be back in F1. Even more so because the japanese had already 3 years with a good F1 car, while the brazilian had only one full season with a good one (and even that one it was not a fair chance due to losing all those free practice). It just shows how overrated Kamui is, as with simlar machinery and conditions (GP2 and WEC) Bruno was better than him.


Driver Points
Kobayashi 98
Senna 94



Bruno is underrated because people compare him with Ayrton. Kobayashi is overrated because he is the best japanese ever. But given equal conditions the brazilian proved last year he is more than a match for the japanese. In f1 he never had a fair chance but sometimes he beat the japanese on track. I remember Malaysia 2012: the Sauber was a great car there, Perez was challenging Alonso for the lead and Kobayashi was nowhere. He was destroyed by Bruno Senna in a wet track, the brazilian overtaking him easily while charging from last to 6th place finish.

The point is that people tend to compare what is not comparable. Instead of comparing Bruno with Ayrton, people should compare Bruno with his rivals. With a lot less experience after losing so many formative years Bruno did well every time he had a fair chance, in equal cars, in F3 and GP2. I have no doubt he would be a winner also in f1 if he had a fair chance. That would have been starting with the right car at the right time. But he had none of that, his career going backwards for almost 3 years through no fault of his own. So he could never be near his true potential. As a driver who lost the normal formative years in karting he needed the support and continuity Damon Hill had in his time. If he was given similar conditions to those Hill had, i have no doubt Bruno Senna would get similar results in f1, as he was/is at least as talented as him. Not a great driver, but more than capable to win in the right circumstances.

Another thing some people don’t forgive Bruno is his boring driving style, much more like a Prost or a Button than a Senna (Ayrton). In that sense Kobayashi is more exciting to watch. Just like a Keke Rosberg was more exciting than a Alain Prost. But was Keke a better driver than Prost? No, he wasn’t.

Alexander Biryukov

Mister Fernando Cruz:

I am sorry to say, but Bruno Senna is a weak pilot. He is only a “pay driver” with a famous surname. The nephew of great Ayrton does not have capacity to stay at Formula One. There is no difference between Indian Narain Karthikeyan and Bruno Senna. Kamui Kobayashi has more competence than the Brazilian pilot. By the way, the Japanese was confirmed as a Caterham driver. Senna is out of F1. Kobayashi is an exciting driver. I respect your opinion, but Kamui is a good professional and a nice boy.


Fernando Cruz:

Sorry, but Bruno Senna is not a good driver. Kobayashi is better than Bruno Senna


Senna had an engine failure in the last race, otherwise he would finish the championship with more points than Kobayashi. In that last race the Ferrari AF Corse was better than the Aston Martin and even so Bruno was already third, ahead of the japanese, when the engine broke.

Bruno could have been champion if it wasn’t for the bad luck he had in Le Mans, losing 50 points there after his partner Fred Makowiecki put the car at the wall while leading, at the 19th hour. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Aston was quicker mainly in qualifying. The Ferrari was more reliable and as quick as the Aston in many races. Sometimes it was even a little bit quicker. Senna was better than Kobayashi overall, quicker than the japanese in qualifying in comparison with their team mates and better in the average race pace. Senna won races, just like his team mates Mucke and Turner, while Kobayashi didn’t. His team mate Bruni won races and was champion.


I am Brazilian and I think Kamui Kobayashi is better than Bruno Senna. Bruno has only a famous surname.


By that reasoning, Tom Kristensen should be in a Red Bull. In equal F1 cars, Kamui would destroy Bruno Senna.


In equal f1 cars they were evenly matched! Bruno even won most of the battles they had since late 2011! But the point is not so much in equal f1 cars but on EQUAL CONDITIONS! Starting in f1 in 2009, just months after his 2008 GP2 season, Bruno Senna would be winning races if he had a car as good as the Brawn GP was! He would perform much better also because he was at his best, full of confidence, coming from a competitive GP2 season! But even losing all that ground through no fault of his own (due to financial crisis leading to Honda’s withdrawal) he still did well enough to stay in F1, given the conditions he had. He never had a fair chance in F1, differently to Kobayashi and others that din’t deserve it so much judging by their results in GP2!


Dear Fernando Cruz:

Kamui Kobayashi is one of my favorite pilots in F1. He is the best Japanese pilot in the world. The Japanese is a very courageous man. I love his style! Bruno Senna is only the nephew of Ayrton Senna.


Once again this proves that Formula 1 is still undoubtably the pinnacle of motorsport. Kamui has turned down a well paying sports car drive (with Ferrari no less) in order to drive for free with the F1 team that came last in 2013.

I wish KK and Caterham all the best this year and hopefully they spring a a few suprises along the way!


My first in over a year and I’m told to slow down… Not exactly F1 standards.


After posting a comment?

It is funny – you can bang on and post comment after comment, but leave it for two days and then on the next one it tells you to take it easy 🙂


Is Kobayashi at least getting expenses covered or is a genuine everything for free year?


Didn’t the GPDA negotiate a FIA-mandated minimum salary for all F1 drivers, including reserve? Something like 30k euros per annum?


If not they ought to.

Of course most ‘pay-drivers’ pay themselves from their sponsor money.

I also think that there should be a salary cap of say €10m the rest can be made up with sponsorship or bonuses.


Well I’m sure he can eat the catering and he doesn’t have to worry about travel costs and all that kind of thing one would have to imagine. Plus the caterham guys seem to get hooked up with sponsor goodies quite regularly if their twitter feed is anything to go buy.


Great question, I was wondering the same…James – any insights?


Very pleased Kamui is back. I would love Karun C. to get a drive back in F1 as well. Those two are better then many of the drivers in the midrange teams for sure.

Lets hope the rule changes catch out the grandees a bit a bit and the back runners get a chance to shine occasionally 🙂


“They say that if we could bring a sponsor then they would hire me”

Understandable maybe, but still a sad state of affairs.


Good to see him in the sport again and to once again have a Japanese driver.


typo – unwilling to fund him


I best order my KK Caterham cap and t-shirt. Welcome back.

Isabelle Ringing

Meadows: “with Japanese businesses unwilling to find him”

Well, Kobayashi is Japanese so I’d start by looking for clues in Japan. Kamui can’t be that hard to find.


If this F1 thing doesn’t pan out he can make a living selling “Where’s Kobi?” books 🙂


‘He’s at the back…again’

‘Oh no wait, he’s back in another formula since Tony F threw his toys out on page 2015…’


Oddly it matched the year he walked away!


Page 2015?

That’s one hefty book 🙂


OT James, do you plan to do an article on Kubica?

He did a great job in Monte Carlo last weekend (even though crashed out). I think it shows the level of F1 top drivers.


Kubica did very well, though I do not agree that it shows the level of F1 top drivers. Look at Räikkönen, who under three complete seasons just managed half the stage wins (1) of what Kubica managed during his first WRC event. It has very little to do with F1. Kubica has always displayed a genuine interest in rally, and has followed it closely.


Kimi was blindingly fast in WRC, however, one could question his commitment and, according to Marcus Groenholm, wasn’t able to cooperate well enough with the co-driver who is a cruicial figure in rallies. Kubica is 110% focused and super-motivated.

I think F1 is about very quick reactions in miliseconds, if you have this base you can do well in any motosport if you are committed.


He was very fast, I read a couple of opinions, and could have done very well, but he lacked motivation. Unlike Kubica.

They both don’t have much experience in rallying, which is crucial along with the ability (or willingness) to collaborate with the co-driver. When you predict, you base your prediction on the experience you have and on what the guy sitting beside you tells you. The speed alone is not enough.

Before GB rally last November Kubica spent hours watching SS onboards from previous years on youtube. I doubt Kimi would ever do that. That’s the difference between the two. Kimi wasn’t just as motivated as Robert.


I don’t agree that he was blindingly fast. He was fast sometimes, but when he didn’t do well he lost motivation. Kubica has talent for driving cars in the fashion you do in rallying.

All racing is about very quick reactions however, you need to react with the right action, not just react. Rallying differs in that, on gravel and ice atleast, you have to react before the car starts to turn and predict what it does before. You do that in F1 too of course, and things move a lot faster, but not with the same low grip levels.


This boy should have been in the second Ferrari about 2 years ago, when questions about Massa’s speed were first raised after his accident. He would be a hosehold name over there by now and F1 would be enjoying a renaissance in Japan.

A fighting spirit in a red Ferrari? Nigel Mansel anyone?


I keep saying this as well. Kamui is honestly not a WDC winning driver, but he is an excellent team driver. He can get points for a team and play the much needed No.2 role that Ferrari and Alonso would like to have.


He has improved every year in F1, he continues to get faster.. And I think WEC last year has improved his consistency. With access to a simulator, hopefully he can get into his groove faster and more consistently for Caterham.

For me he has WDC potential, but he was very unlucky in 2013 imho.. A few accidents that weren’t his fault and Perez lucking into winning tyre strategies because of his poor qualifying made Koba look worse than he is.


*2012 not 2013 =)


he did pull off some great moves but I don’t rate him as high as some people appear to. because of his great overtaking I think his inconsistency gets forgotten or missed. Maybe he would’ve improved on this if sauber kept him on as they should’ve. His 3rd in japan was superb.

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