Throwing away the rulebook that dictates overtaking to be a rarity at Suzuka, the Japanese driver scythed through the field to finish seventh after starting from 14th on the grid.
What was more impressive was that Kobayashi hadn’t raced on the circuit since his teens!
The Sauber driver earned high praise from his team bosses, who were quick to sign him after his brief stint with Toyota last season, where he established a reputation for some ballsy racecraft.
Acting Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn described his driving as “absolutely spectacular” after the race, which saw Kobayashi launch a series of passing moves into the hairpin on the likes of Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Rubens Barrichello, and team-mate Nick Heidfeld.
Some of the passes – particularly those on Sutil and Alguersuari – were certainly a little more robust than perhaps Kamui would have liked, with his Ferrari-powered car wearing plenty of scars from battle at the end of the race, which saw the team earned its second double-points’ finish of the season.
“My car is rather damaged!” he told Blick after the race.
“Some deflectors are missing from the car, and the sidepod has a big hole in it. Also a part of the front wing isn’t there any more!” added team manager Beat Zehnder.
Kobayashi also earned high praise from within the drivers’ circle as well – a rarity in modern-era motorsport – with Robert Kubica admitting that the home crowd favourite kept him an interested spectator after his own early race retirement.
“What Kamui did with his car was super,” Kubica said. “Because I had to watch on television, he saved my day!”
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]