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Kamui Kobayashi

DRIVER PAGE
22/02/2014

PORTRAIT

STATISTICS (PRIOR TO 2014)

Seasons in Formula 1:
Races contested:
Total number of championships:
Total number of wins:
Total number of pole positions:
Total number of fastest laps:
Total number of points:
2013 - number of wins:
2013 - number of poles:
2013 - number of fastest laps:
2013 - points:
2013 - championship position:

4
60
0
0
0
1
125
0
0
0
0
0

DETAILS

Kamui Kobayashi

DOB:
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Status:
Born:
Lives:

13/09/1986
28
1.68m
76kg
Single
Hyogo, Japan
Monaco

Official website:
www.kamui-kobayashi.com/

BIOGRAPHY

Kamui started Karting at the age of 9, winning the All Japan Cadet Class, the Suzuka Kart Championship and the All Japan Kart Championship ICA Class over the next few years before making his single-seater debut in the Esso Formula Toyota Series in 2002, aged 16.

The following year, he contested the entire championship ultimately finishing runner-up, at which point, like so many other Japanese drivers, he opted to move to Europe.

However, rather than try his luck in Britain, Kamui headed to Italy, where he contested the Formula Renault Italian Championship. In his first season, the youngster finished fourth, returning to win the championship just one year later.

2005 was a definitive year for Kamui, for in addition to his victory in the Formula Renault Italian Championship he also won the Formula Renault Euro Championship. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

In 2006 he moved up to F3, competing in the Formula 3 Euro Series. While he could only manage eighth in the championship he did take the 'Rookie of the Year' award.

The following year, remaining in the Formula 3 Euro Series, he finished fourth overall, taking a convincing win at Magny-Cours right under the eyes of the F1 paddock.

A long-time member of Toyota's Young Driver Programme (TDP), Kamui's 2007 performance in F3 was enough to convince the Japanese manufacturer to hand him the third driver role for its F1 team in 2008, supporting Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. In addition to his F1 commitments, Kamui was signed up to the GP2 Series and GP2 Asia with DAMS.

Having finished sixth in the inaugural GP2 Asia series with two wins, much was expected of the youngster in the GP2 Series 'proper'. However, despite taking a controversial win in the Sprint Race at Barcelona - having started from pole - it was a season of little note for the youngster, with his teammate Jerome d'Ambrosio regularly outshining him.

At season end, Kamui was a disappointing sixteenth, however he went into 2009 retained as third driver for Toyota and a full season of racing in GP2 Asia and the main series.

The record books show that Kamui won the 2008/2009 GP2 Asia series, the Japanese youngster winning the feature races at Sentul and Sepang. However, the real star of the show was Nico Hulkenberg who, though he only contested two rounds (Bahrain and Qatar), scored 27 points thereby finishing sixth in the championship.

In the main series, Kamui, to be blunt, was disappointing, his best result being a third place in the Sprint Race at Silverstone. At season end he was sixteenth in the standings - as in the previous season - and some were wondering whether the youngster was as good as originally thought.

The answer came almost two months after the final round of the GP2 Series when Kamui was called on to replace Timo Glock in the Friday practice sessions of the Japanese Grand Prix after the German complained of being unwell.

While Glock recovered next day and was able to take part in the final free practice session a crash during qualifying ruled him out of the race. The Japanese team requested permission that Kamui be allowed to deputise for the German but the request was turned down as the rules state that he had to have taken part in at least one session on the Saturday.

However, when Glock was ruled out for the remainder of the season, the German having suffered a cracked vertebra, Kamui was finally given the opportunity to prove himself and prove himself he did.

In the madness of Brazil, a session that lasted almost three hours, Kamui qualified eleventh. Next day he finished tenth but was promoted to ninth when Heikki Kovalainen was handed a 25s penalty for his "unsafe release" from his first pit stop.

While much of the media attention focussed on Jenson Button who had finally secured the title, the main talking point on message boards and forums was Kamui's performance.

Given the opportunity to race an F1 car that's exactly what the 23-year-old did, mixing it with the best of them and clearly no respecter of reputations or length of service.

Following a fight with Nakajima that saw the Williams driver run wide and out of the race, Kamui was lucky not to be hauled up before he stewards, while Button, who enjoyed his own little skirmish with the Toyota driver, described him as "absolutely crazy".

"It was a tough race for me," said Kamui after the race. "Physically it felt like a really long race and it was quite tough. My first target was to finish and I am pleased to achieve that, but after the start I was in a decent position to score points so I am a little disappointed I didn't."

Two weeks later in Abu Dhabi, Kamui almost stole the show yet again however, this time there were no comments as to his mental state. Indeed, when the youngster pulled a move forcing him into a mistake, newly-crowned world champion Jenson Button was amongst the first to heap praise on the young Toyota driver.

Another impressive no-nonsense performance saw Kamui finish sixth thereby scoring the first points of his F1 career and no doubt the youngster headed to bed that night already anticipating the call which would see him secure a full season with Toyota in 2010.

However, just three days later the Japanese manufacturer announced that it was pulling out of F1 with immediate effect leaving Kamui to ponder whether he might be spending 2010 working for his father in his sushi restaurant.

Just over a month later however, Kamui was named as one of Peter Sauber's drivers for 2010, the Swiss having taken back control of his team after BMW followed Honda and pre-empted Toyota in leaving F1.

With a Ferrari powerplant behind him, Kamui would line up on the grid in Bahrain with one of the sport's most experienced drivers, Pedro de la Rosa, as his teammate. "The combination of a seasoned racer and an up-and-coming young driver has repeatedly proved a very fruitful one," said Peter Sauber following the official confirmation of de la Rosa's signing. "I don't expect either of them to disappoint in 2010."

As it happened, Kamui didn't disappoint, far from it, while de la Rosa was to be dropped in favour of Nick Heidfeld with five races still remaining.

While pre-season testing suggested that the C29 had pace, it soon became clear that this was more about low-fuel runs. Poor mechanical grip, particularly with a heavy fuel load, left the car almost 2s off the pace of the front runners.

Kamui's season got off to the worst possible start, a hydraulics problem in Bahrain was followed by a wing failure in Australia which saw the hapless Japanese youngster take out Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastien Buemi.

In Malaysia, having made it through to Q3, Kamui was sidelined by an engine failure just 8 laps into the race. In China there was another three-car incident, this time involving Tonio Liuzzi and Buemi, leaving Kamui as the only driver yet to finish a race.

After another disappointing weekend in Monaco, where he suffered another gearbox failure, Kamui scored his first point of the season in Turkey, bringing his C29 home in tenth. That said, two weeks later he became another victim of the dreaded 'wall of champions' in Montreal.

Over the course of the Valencia, Silverstone and Hockenheim weekends, the team introduced an upgrade that included aero and mechanical improvements, and Kamui duly took full advantage taking seventh in Valencia and sixth at Silverstone.

Further points finishes in Hungary and Belgium were followed by a gearbox problem in Italy and an accident in Singapore. There were a string of points finishes to conclude the season, in Japan, Korea and Brazil, and while he only managed twelfth in the standings along the way he had been one of the few joys of 2011, bravest of the overtakers and king of the late-brakers. Those banzai performances that so enthralled us in 2009 were no flash in the pan.

Thankfully, Kamui was retained for 2011, alongside rookie Sergio Perez, and as a result many a Sunday was livened up by the increasingly popular Japanese star.

He got his second season with the Swiss team off to a perfect start by taking ninth place on the grid in Melbourne and subsequently bringing the car home eighth in the race, one place behind his teammate. However, an irregularity with the rear wing was to lead to both cars being disqualified.

Undaunted, Kamui went on to score points in the next six Grands Prix, the performance in Turkey - where he finished tenth - particularly impressive since he started from the back row of the grid. While he started fourteenth on the grid at Barcelona, a first lap puncture saw him drop to the very back of the field after pitting. However, another epic drive saw him finish tenth. In just these two races he made no less than twenty-three overtaking manoeuvres.

At Monaco, a weekend overshadowed by a qualifying incident involving his teammate, Kamui finished fifth, his best ever finish and a result much needed by his team both in terms of the championship and in terms of morale.

The frustration of Montreal, where he ran as high as second in the wet but subsequently lost places as the track dried, was followed by a long, lean period in which the points were few and far between. Indeed, after Canada, Kamui only scored two points in the next ten races as Force India found its form, Sauber paid the price of not getting to grips with the blown diffuser and Kamui appeared to lose his mojo, certainly in terms of his flamboyance.

At the Japanese Grand Prix, an emotional Kamui gave hope to his home fans still deeply affected by the Tsunami earlier in the year, by going fastest in Q1 and qualifying a career best seventh. However, in the race he could only manage thirteenth, while his teammate made one less pitstop and was able to finish eighth.

As Toro Rosso closed in, Kamui put together a couple of inspired end of season performances, finishing tenth in Abu Dhabi and ninth in Brazil, Sauber thereby taking seventh in the constructors' standings with exactly the same number of points as it accrued the previous season.

Despite Sauber's four podium finishes in 2012, many still feel that even more was achievable. Things got off to the worst possible start when, three days before the launch, Technical Director, James Key, for reasons still unexplained, opted to leave the Swiss team, resurfacing in September with Toro Rosso.

This time around there were no disqualifications in Melbourne, both drivers opening their points accounts at the first opportunity.

Though largely outshone by his Mexican teammate, Kamui had his moments, not least his epic drive to third at Suzuka. For many, the lingering memory of the day remains the wild scenes during the podium ceremony as the crowd continually shouted his name. In the wake of a brilliant drive, under intense pressure from Button in the McLaren, and not forgetting the previous year's tsunami, it was an emotional moment.

In Belgium, having qualified a brilliant second, he was one of the innocent victims of Grosjean's stupidity, though, thankfully, the Japanese was able to continue eventually finishing the race in thirteenth.

As in previous years however, the team began to stagnate in the second half of the season, taking just ten points from the last five races.

While Perez enjoyed a run of six races in which he failed to score a single point, Kamui added a further 25, thus helping the Hinwil team keep hold of sixth in the standings ahead of Force India.

There were a number of weekends, Bahrain, Hungary and Austin, when the team appeared to fall apart, seemingly a shadow of the team we'd seen just a week or so earlier, but none of this could be directly laid at the door of Kamui who, for the most part, did the business.

Nonetheless it wasn't enough to keep the popular Japanese in his Sauber, the Swiss outfit opting for an all-new line-up in Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez. Indeed, it wasn't enough to keep the Japanese in F1, Kamui having to resort to starting an online campaign to raise the money to buy a drive.

Not for the first time (or last), money - or the lack of it - won out over talent, and as Kamui headed off to find some much needed cash his many fans (including the Pitpass team) was left wondering when, or even if, we would ever got to see his Samurai spirit again.

In March 2013 it was confirmed that Kamui would drive a Ferrari 458 GT in the LMGTE-Pro class of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship for AF Corse.

Finishing seventh overall in the championship, his best result being second in the opening round (Silverstone), Kamui, along with co-drivers Olivier Beretta and Toni Vilander also finished 5th in class in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

At one stage the youngster, much to his obvious delight, drove a 2010 Ferrari F1 car at a promotional event in Moscow... he crashed!

On 21 January 2014, following days of intense speculation, it was confirmed that Kamui had secured a seat with the Caterham F1 team. It is understood that the Anglo-Malaysian team, which was fielding its third different driver line-up in as many seasons, received money from the Kamui Support fan campaign aimed at bringing him back to F1.

"I want to give special thanks to all the fans who have made donations to Kamui Support," he said. "Their donations and gestures gave me extra strength to come back fighting and I am very pleased that the money they raised not only helped me but will now go to helping Caterham progress this year. Every single one of you who helped with Kamui Support will race with me in 2014 and that makes me very proud."

And we're delighted to have him back.

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