Kamui Kobayashi will be back behind the wheel for the Caterham F1 Team at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, the team has announced.
It would seem, however, that the Japanese driver was very much the team’s third choice, after it was unable to secure the services of either André Lotterer or Formula Renault 3.5 Series frontrunner Roberto Merhi.
Kobayashi had raced for the green team at every race up until the Hungarian Grand Prix, but was eased aside when Caterham opted to use the services of Audi World Endurance Championship driver André Lotterer for the Belgian Grand Prix. The less-well-funded Kobayashi is not known for his ability to give good technical feedback, and so Lotterer – along with a hefty amount of sponsorship from his backers – was given the nod.
The team had hoped to parachute Spanish racer Roberto Merhi into the seat for Monza, however, the FIA blocked the move and refused to issue the 23-year-old with the Superlicense required to race. Merhi has had some time behind the wheel of an F1 car, having driven for the HRTF1 Team at the ‘Young Drivers’ test in Abu Dhabi a few years ago.
Merhi (pictured left) remains very much in Caterham’s plans for the remainder of the season, and so Caterham was able to negotiate for him to drive in FP1 on Friday to build up the miles he needs to earn a Superlicense and hopefully make his Grand Prix debut next time out at Singapore.
That still left the team with the problem of who would drive for the remainder of the weekend, and so Lotterer was given the offer and subsequently turned it down at the eleventh hour when he realised that he wouldn’t be driving in all of the sessions on account of Merhi locking in the FP1 drive.
“When [Caterham advisor] Colin Kolles told me on Tuesday that Merhi would take my place for the first practice session, I changed my mind and told them I would not participate,” Lotterer is quoted as saying by Spain’s Diario AS.
“I am a newcomer in Formula 1 and I need to drive.”
So all of the wrangling ultimately pushed Kobayashi back to the front of the queue, for an opportunity which he has gratefully accepted.
“I am working for Caterham and I always respect team decisions. Now I am back in the car and looking forward to going racing again!” he explained.
“We have worked hard and added performance to the car as well as bringing new updates since I last drove in Hungary before the summer break, so I’m looking forward to feeling the updates on track here in Monza.”
Merhi – who is also armed with considerable Russian sponsorship backing – thanked Caterham for giving him his first run in a Formula 1 machine while he geared up for his maiden Friday practice outing.
“I am delighted to be taking part in my first ever Formula 1 free practice session and I want to thank Caterham for this opportunity – it’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time,” he said.
“I’ve been working very closely with the team during the last few weeks and I feel ready for this opportunity; Friday is going to be a very special day for me and one I will never forget.”
Images via XPB Images