Latest news:

Kamui Kobayashi Profile

By Sauber Motorsport
September 2 2010

The fight and the fun
You can’t help but warm to Kamui Kobayashi. Meet him off the track and he’s all smiles and laughing, the personification of cool. He likes to chill out on the beach, “carpe diem” (“live for today”) is his motto. Once behind the wheel of a racing car, however, the easy-going charm soon melts away – as his Formula One rivals discovered in his first two Grands Prix late last year. He attributes his successful overtaking manoeuvre on newly crowned world champion Jenson Button in Abu Dhabi to different race strategies, but can’t disguise his pride at passing Kimi Räikkönen just after the start.
Kamui Kobayashi comes from an unremarkable background, the son of a sushi restaurant owner in Amagasaki west of Osaka. Neither his parents nor his older brother or younger sister share his passion for motor racing. However, he began pestering his father for his own set of wheels at a very early age, and was just nine years old when he entered his first kart race in Japan, supported initially by his father and Yamaha. A string of victories made his case for a place on Toyota’s Young Drivers’ Program, and he was soon on his way to Europe. He has seen very little of his family since the move overseas, and even when he does travel to Japan he tends to head for Tokyo rather than Osaka. The independent life he took on as a teenager has stuck.
Aged 17 he moved to Italy to compete in the highly competitive 2004 Italian Formula Renault championship. “I got an apartment and a lot of support from Toyota,” he recalls gratefully. However, as far as everyday issues were concerned, he was very much on his own. Kobayashi arrived in Italy with Japanese as his only language. In the supermarket he found himself struggling to tell washing-up liquid from shampoo. “Every day was a challenge,” he cheerfully recalls. “The Italians were so different from the Japanese. We are more like the Germans – very punctual, very proper. I liked the Italian way of life from the start.” But wasn’t loneliness a problem? “It was tough at times, but I knew what I wanted; I was in the right place to become a racing driver.”

He may have become “Europeanised” now, but when asked if he is proud to be Japanese he answers without hesitation: “Yes, of course!” His helmet design confirms this affinity to his native country. The red colouring is taken from the red at the centre of the Japanese national flag.
Kobayashi’s fascination with motor sport boils down to a single word: fight. Fear is not something he is familiar with inside the car. His aim is to win. While this appears to jar somewhat with his laid-back demeanour off the track, his transition into a determined racer when he gets behind the wheel is as effortless as it is genuine. “If you do something for fun, then you should enjoy it. I don’t like to be surly or difficult. I can be a good loser, just not out on the track.” He even draws a line between his professional and private life when it comes to the weather: “I can’t be doing with rain,” he admits. “Unless I’m in a racing car. Then it’s a challenge.”
For Kobayashi, the history of Formula One began in 2003. “That’s when I first saw Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso battling it out; from that point on I wanted to be racing in Formula One as well.” As for any earlier era in the top category of motor racing, he began following the sport too recently to comment.
In 2005 Kobayashi won both the Italian Formula Renault and Formula Renault Eurocup titles, an achievement matched only by Felipe Massa before him. That success led him into the Formula 3 Euro Series and, at the end of the year, to Macau, where he managed to secure pole position on the extremely challenging circuit as well as gaining a qualifying race win and a boost in confidence. In 2007, victory at Magny-Cours in France and further podium finishes secured fourth place in the overall standings of the Formula 3 Euro Series, and with it promotion: Toyota signed him up at the end of 2007 as the Formula One team’s reserve driver for 2008.
With the F1 regulations limiting testing to a minimum, the “substitutes’ bench” in Formula One is more like a sin bin nowadays. However, as a reserve driver you have to be ready to deliver maximum performance when you get the call. In 2008 and 2009 Kobayashi competed in the GP2 series in Asia and Europe. It didn’t take him long to record his maiden victory in GP2 Europe, and in the winter of 2008/2009 he won the GP2 Asia title with something to spare. Buoyed by these early breakthroughs, his subsequent inability to build on his success in the main GP2 series in 2009 was all the more disappointing. “We still don’t quite understand what went wrong,” concedes the former DAMS team driver. “But the situation made the opportunity I was given to step into the Formula One seat all the more valuable. For this reason, last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix was probably the most important race of my career so far,” he says, reflecting on his first race deputising for Timo Glock. Not that he was totally happy with his performance: “I did better in the GP2 race in Dubai and the final Formula One race of 2009 in Abu Dhabi,” he says.
Formula One
By the time Kobayashi climbed into Glock’s Toyota cockpit for free practice at Suzuka on 2nd October 2009, seven months had passed since he last sat in a Formula One racing car. Two weeks later he was lining up for the first of his two F1 races to date. In his debut outing at Interlagos he qualified 11th and went on to finish ninth in the race itself – just a whisker outside the points-scoring positions. Then at the season finale in Abu Dhabi he qualified 12th, was the best of the drivers on a one-stop strategy and picked up three points for sixth place. In both races his combative ability marked him out as one to watch, while in Abu Dhabi his ability to carefully manage a race strategy also attracted praise.
Kobayashi views openness, honesty and sportsmanship as important attributes, and in that regard Peter Sauber ticked all the right boxes. “I was impressed that he showed me the new car so soon after we had shaken hands on an agreement,” he underlines. “And I was thrilled to see just how cutting-edge the factory was in Hinwil. That wasn’t how I’d imagined it.”
For his part, Sauber built up a picture of the young Japanese driver as he watched him in action. “Kamui put in a very good performance in the race at Interlagos,” confirmed the experienced team boss. “But his race in Abu Dhabi was just brilliant.”
Personal Data:
Born 13th September 1986 in Amagasaki (JP)
Nationality Japanese
Residence Cologne (DE)
Marital status Single
Height / Weight 1,70 m / 63 kg
Hobbies To enjoy holidays and life
Favourite food Japanese food but no raw fish
Favourite drink Milkshakes
Favourite music House
Favourite track Magny-Cours and Silverstone
Languages Japanese, English
Began karting in Japan, 3rd place SL Takarazuka Tournament (Cadet Class)
1st place SL All Japan Tournament (Cadet Class)
1st place JAF Cup West (Cadet Class)
1st place SL All Japan Tournament (S stock, D class)
1st place All Japan Junior Kart Championship, 1st place Suzuka Kart Championship
1st place All Japan Kart Championship (ICA Class),
Asia Pacific Championship (ICA Class),
Participated in Esso Formula Toyota Racing School, acquired scholarship
Kart Euro Championship,
Debut in single seater racing Esso Formula Toyota Series (round 10)
2nd place Formula Toyota, Japan
Signed to Toyota Drivers Academy, Toyota Driver Program, 7th place Formula Renault Italy, 3 pole positions, 2 wins
1st place Formula Renault Eurocup, 4 pole positions, 6 wins, 1st place Formula Renault Italy, 4 pole positions, 6 wins
8th place Formula 3 Euro Series, Rookie of the Year, Pole position and win race one in Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, Formula 1 Test for Toyota
4th place Formula 3 Euro Series, 1 pole position, 1 win (Magny-Cours)
6th place GP2 Asia (DAMS), 2 wins (Sepang, Sakhir), 16th place GP2 main series (DAMS), 1 win (Barcelona), Formula 1: official third driver for Panasonic Toyota Racing Team
1st place GP2 Asia (DAMS), 2 pole positions, 2 wins, 16th place GP2 main series (DAMS), Formula 1: official third driver for Panasonic Toyota Racing Team, participated in free practice in Suzuka, race debut in Interlagos, first points in his second Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi (6th place) 
F1 statistics pre-2010:

First GP Brasil 2009, 9th place
GP started 2
Best race result 6th (Abu Dhabi 2009)
Best qualifying result 11th (São Paulo 2009)
Points in total 3
Wins -
Pole positions -
Podium places -
Fastest race laps -

View a Printer Friendly version of this Story.

Bookmark or share this story with: