By far, one of the most popular driver appointments during the off-season was the return if Kamui Kobayashi, who is back on the F1 grid after a year on the sidelines racing in Ferrari’s GT team.
With unfinished business, the sushi chef’s son was desperate to continue his Formula 1 career, and so were his fans, who rallied to raise enough funds for the Japanese driver to re-ignite his dream of returning to F1. It’s a fairytale return, and it will be all the better if he can deliver results at his new home, Caterham. We spoke Kamui during the Australian Grand Prix build-up…
What are the emotions like to be back in the paddock as a Formula 1 driver? How important was the support from your fans?
Being back in Formula 1 with so much support from the fans and other drivers has been wonderful.
I’m very proud to have so much support from my fans. Of course I was very sad to lose my seat at the end of 2012, but coming back has made me more confident after a year away.
What lessons have you learned about yourself while spending a year racing with Ferrari’s GT team?
I enjoyed GT racing with Ferrari; it was great racing and I enjoyed my time there. But I really missed the high-level technology, the driving in Formula 1. So the fire kept burning and I started to look at how I could get back into Formula 1.
I have more experience racing in a different category, but I’ve discovered how much I enjoy being challenged and, in turn, how that drives my enjoyment.
I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to fight for results. I have unfinished business, and I think my approach will be different this time around. Of course I will enjoy myself this time around, but it’s a different mindset.
Your return made headlines because you turned down a paying drive with Ferrari and used the backing you’d been able to raise among your fans to help secure the drive at Caterham. Can you describe the decision to attempt a comeback to F1?
It was an easy decision to come back to Formula 1. I just decided to go for it, and my fans and supporters were tremendous in raising the funds to make it possible.
Everyone’s had pre-season problems – particularly your engine partner Renault. What have been the biggest challenges so far? Is Caterham’s better reliability (of the Renault runners) giving you some comfort?
We need to understand what we’ve achieved in the tests. There is no championship for winter testing; it’s our performance at the Grands Prix that counts. Our measure of progress will be how strong we are as the season progresses, and that will come down to our rate and quality of development.
Of course we need as much mileage as possible, and we need more, but the challenge is the same for everyone.
Is there a difference in the driving technique under the new regulations?
The sensation is different because of the new technology, but it’s still driving. We need to smoothen out a few issues to make the car’s behaviour more predictable.
I welcome the new technology. The fuel consumption reductions and focus on greener technology are great, and it will call upon different skills for us as drivers. The fact that this technology can be transferred down to road cars is very exciting; I’m proud to be part of this evolution for the sport and road drivers.
What are your initial impressions of the CT05, how does it feel from a balance and grip standpoint?
The amazing thing with Formula 1 is that – despite the reductions in downforce and engine power – the lap times are the same, if not quicker. I find it so strange!
For me, the lap times and the outright speed of a category don’t matter when you go racing. The car has to be cool! And the Caterham CT05 is cool!
My desire to become a Formula 1 driver came because I loved the cars when I was a child. I thought they were so cool, and it’s still cool for me today.
We offer our thanks to the Caterham F1 Team for making this interview possible.
Images via RichardsF1.com and XPB Images