Any uncertainty over Kamui Kobayashi’s participation at his home Grand Prix this weekend can finally be put to rest, with the Caterham F1 Team announcing that the Japanese driver will be behind the wheel at the Formula 1 World Championship’s visit to Suzuka.
Kobayashi’s position with the Leafield-based team has been in a state of flux since the team’s buyout by a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors ahead of the British Grand Prix.
After being sidelined in favour of Audi sports car ace André Lotterer at Spa-Francorchamps in August, Kobayashi has driven for the team at the following Grands Prix in Italy and Singapore, where the Renault-powered CT05 has shown considerable improvement after its first major development upgrade.
Unfortunately Kobayashi wasn’t able to showcase the car’s pace last time out at Singapore, when his car suffered a terminal failure on the warm-up lap before the race.
Contesting his home event – where he claimed his sole Grand Prox podium for Sauber in 2012 – was always a huge, albeit uncertain, aspiration for Kobayashi, but he can now head there full of confidence.
“I’m very excited to be back in front of all my Japanese fans and racing at Suzuka; I’ve been waiting for this race for over a year,” he said in a media release distributed by the team.
“The Japanese Grand Prix and Suzuka have always been very special for me: it’s where I experienced my first F1 Free Practice sessions back in 2009 [for Toyota] and where I also achieved my first ever Formula 1 podium finish in 2012 and, this year, I am able to come back to Suzuka thanks to the support I received from my fans. This means a lot to me and I would like to thank them all once again. I only have positive feelings going into this weekend.
“Unfortunately, this year I have to admit that I won’t be fighting for a podium, but I will do my best to reward my fans with a strong performance in order to thank them for their enormous support – I look forward to meeting them all there.”
Teammate Marcus Ericsson also heads into the weekend’s 53-lap race full of ambition after delivering the best race of his rookie Formula 1 season last time out at Singapore. The Swede out-raced both Marussias on merit around the Marina Bay circuit, and will return to a venue where he enjoyed plenty of success in his junior single-seater career.
“I can’t wait to go back to Japan for my first Formula One race! It’s a country that brings back very good memories – I won the Japanese Formula Three championship there back in 2009, becoming the first Swede to win this title,” he said.
“Suzuka is also one of my favourite Japanese circuits and during my successful Japanese F3 season I managed to be on pole, win the race and set the fastest lap there; it’s a track I know very well. This will be the first time I drive it in a Formula 1 car and I look forward to racing through the high-speed corners. It’s a very demanding and challenging circuit, but that’s what makes it even more fun and one of the best tracks in the world.
“After a very positive end to the weekend in Singapore where we were able to stay ahead of our main competitors, I’m hoping to continue fighting out on track and make the most out of the weekend ahead in Japan. The good results are making me feel even more confident every time I get in the car; we need to make sure we make the most of the next five races and build on this momentum.”
The team also confirmed that Spanish racer Roberto Merhi will be back behind the wheel for his second Friday practice outing – following his maiden effort at last month’s Italian Grand Prix – although it hasn’t confirmed whose cockpit he will be taking over in FP1.
“I’m very happy to be driving in another FP1 session with Caterham F1 Team. I want to thank the team for this opportunity – after my first outing a month ago in Italy, I am now looking forward to another 90 minutes in the car,” he added.
“I will not be starting from zero like last time, so I will be able to get up to speed quicker. I have never driven in Japan, so I will need to learn the track at the same time as I continue to get used to the car, but it’s a dream come true to be able to drive at such a special track like Suzuka, I just can’t wait for it to be Friday!”
Image via Caterham F1 Team