If you were able to catch the final two rounds of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship then you should be familiar with a Japanese driver by the name of Kamui Kobayashi. Kobayashi has been serving as the third driver at Toyota’s Formula 1 outfit since November 2007, after replacing Franck Montagny. The Toyota F1 driver is also competing in the GP2 series which is another feeder series for Formula 1.
Kobayashi’s non-testing driving role in the Toyota F1 team actually started at this year’s Japanese Grand Prix when he replaced Timo Glock for the first two practice sessions, following Glock’s health-related issues. Glock then had a crash during qualifying and did not compete in the race the next day.
Glock’s health advisers then recommended the German not to take part in the remaining two races of the season. Glock’s misfortune was a blessing for Kobayashi as he was then summoned to race in Brazil and in last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In his first qualifying session, he managed to secure 11th place although his team mate Jarno Trulli was fourth fastest.
During the race at the Interlagos track in Sao Paulo, he drove a clean race most of the time and spectators started to notice more of him when the Japanese driver performed some gutsy wheel to wheel racing with his competitors on track.
Kobayashi successfully defended against championship contenders Jenson Button from Brawn and Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull during race. Button even labeled the Japanese driver ‘crazy’. The highlight of his race debut was the battle he had with fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima from Williams. Kobayashi was exiting the pits following a routine pit stop and came out right in front of the Williams driver.
Kobayashi was so determined not to give the position away that Nakajima hit the back of Kobayashi’s car and subsequently lost front wing and eventually hit a tire barrier at Turn 4. Kobayashi managed to finish in ninth place, just a place away from a point finish.
At the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he managed to qualify in 12th place and it was later revealed that he did so with a very heavy fuel load. During the race, he was running based on a one stop strategy. He started to shine when everyone else who were running on two stop strategies made their first pit stops. With a lighter car, Kobayashi was charging forward and even made a successful, sensational pass on newly-crowned World Champion Jenson Button.
Although he had a lighter car underneath him, Kobayashi’s aggressive driving style and raw talent were evident. He kept his nose clean through out the race and managed to cross the finish line in sixth place and earned three valuable points. He even finished ahead of his more experienced team mate Jarno Trulli.
I have been following Formula 1 for the past decade and only a handful of drivers managed to push me to the edge of my seat with ballsy moves while being able to keep on racing till the checkered flag is waived. Those few include Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen as well as Fernando Alonso. I must admit that Kobayashi is looking good to be included in that list. With just two races, he has quickly became the talk of town. Furthermore, it is very likely that he will be named as one of the 2010 drivers for Toyota.
I hope he manages to secure a race seat as I would love to see him more in action. Its about time that Japan gets its first Formula 1 World Champion. Recent Formula 1 drivers from the Land of Rising Sun have failed to really shine, but that may change with Kobayashi. So will he be considered as the next Schumacher from Japan? Judging from his performance so far, my answer is: Most likely!