Kamui Kobayashi Q&A: Time to capitalise on my big chance 05 Feb 2010
In 2009, Kamui Kobayashi changed his destiny when he was drafted in for two Grands Prix to replace an injured Timo Glock at Toyota. After a passable debut in Brazil, Kobayashi outpaced veteran team mate Jarno Trulli in the Abu Dhabi season finale, scored three points, and all but secured himself a full-time race seat for 2010. While Toyotas sudden exit just days later dampened his hopes, he soon found a new home at BMW Sauber. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, he explains how he hopes to make his big opportunity pay off
Q: Kamui, your 2009 season was quite a rollercoaster ride. You won the G2 Asia Series, endured a pretty poor season in the main GP2 Series, and then got the chance to fill in for the injured Timo Glock at Toyota. How was it for you?
Kamui Kobayashi: Well, first of all it is very difficult to say what happened in the European GP2, as we had expected much better results after the successful Asian series, but we struggled all season long. But I never gave up believing that I could do better and it paid off in F1 in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. I had been working hard with Toyota and finally the opportunity came my way. It was my big chance. I have to admit that its hard for me to believe how things can change from one moment to the other. Let's say that I was pretty surprised myself.
Q: Would you have ever guessed that, after your poor GP2 result, Toyota would consider you for such a chance in Formula One racing?
KK: From the outside it's difficult to understand their decision, as people tend to forget about you after a string of bad results. But I got the chance - and I am very, very happy about it.
Q: Did your performance at the last two 2009 Grands Prix pave your way into a full-time F1 race seat? Without your pace at the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi races, would you have landed a seat?
KK: Before the two races - not really. But after these two races everything changed and I knew that if I got a chance and worked hard, Formula One would be within reach. I prepared myself because if a chance comes along you have to be ready. But looking back, it is difficult to say what I really expected would happen. Sometimes chance and circumstances decide your future.
Q: Did you have a plan B? Would you have stayed in GP2?
KK: No, I wouldn't have stayed in GP2 because we had no budget. You could say that my only route was to step up into F1.
Q: When did your negotiations with Peter Sauber start?
KK: We started negotiating after Abu Dhabi, but the problem was that the team didn't have an entry at that time so Peter told me to be patient and wait. Once the team had its entry confirmed, we finalised the negotiations and signed the contract. I was thinking that I was very lucky, but Peter didn't say anything like that, so I know what is expected from me - to be professional and work very hard.
Q: You have now sampled the car. Whats your impression? The Toyota certainly favoured your style, but does the C29?
KK: I have a good feeling, although it is hard to compare it and point out significant differences, because we are speaking here about two totally different car concepts. Now we have narrow front tyres, a big tank and a lot of fuel. My experience is not great enough to really make a statement on it at this at time.
Q: Your team mate Pedro de la Rosa has a lot of experience. Will your relationship be more like teacher and pupil?
KK: He is bringing a lot of experience from McLaren. He knows how to work the car, how to push development and I need to look over his shoulder. We have to work together and develop the car together. I know Pedro quite well and I am sure that we will form a great team - something of a 'family team'.
Q: Within a year three major Japanese companies - Honda, Toyota and Bridgestone - announced plans to withdraw from Formula One racing. What does that exodus mean for young, aspiring Japanese drivers?
KK: It is truly a difficult situation - but the economy lately in Japan has been difficult. Formula One is something of a distant dream - the ultimate goal of a racers career. At the moment I am the only Japanese driver on the grid and I want to show the young guys back home that Formula One must not stay a dream - it can become reality with hard work, self confidence and a good portion of luck.
Q: Is the Japanese nation still as fond of Formula One racing?
KK: Oh sure, there are millions of F1 fans in Japan. Hopefully I can be good ambassador and a good role model of how you can manage the step up to F1, even if it is very difficult at the moment to find support and sponsors. In the end its all about good results - sponsors are looking for that.
Q: Were you the most surprised by your Formula One performance last year?
KK: Well, I was not really so surprised. Id worked for two years as a test driver and it was therefore easy for me to communicate with the team. I knew that if I wanted to do better than (2009 team mate) Jarno (Trulli), I couldnt follow his lead but had to develop my own environment. And the results proved me right. That is why I am in F1 today.
Q: What is it that you aspire to this season?
KK: Obviously we need to score points for the team. Everything else is dreams for the future.