Japanese F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham Racing addressing the crowd in an event at the Sepang Circuit on Tuesday.
SEPANG: One does not get that many second chances when it comes to a Formula One seat and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi can thank his ardent fans for helping him secure a drive with Caterham.
That’s why Kobayashi is excited to return to Sepang for the Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix this weekend. The Japanese ace was convinced his time in the top flight was over when a lack of funding forced him out of the Sauber team at the end of 2012, ironically only weeks after taking his one and only podium finish.
He ventured into GT racing with Ferrari last season and was paid for his services.
But the attraction of F1 was too strong to resist and it resulted in him offering to drive for free for Caterham.
Kobayashi also reportedly handed over £1mil (RM5.46mil) in sponsorship money raised by his fans to the outfit, which is based in Leafield but registered as a Malaysian entrant.
“I’m excited about getting back to racing F1 cars again. Now, we are here for our team’s first home race of the year, so it’s going to be a good week.
“I raced here a few times before and finished in the points in 2011 (seventh placing). It would be great if we are able to fight for a point but we’ll have to make sure we have a better Friday than we did in Australia if we’re going to have a stronger weekend in Sepang,” said 27-year-old Kobayashi, who attended a meet the fans session with team-mate Marcus Ericsson at Pavilion yesterday.
Both drivers endured a troubled opening day at the season opener in Melbourne two weeks ago.
Kobayashi and Ericsson were restricted to just three laps amid technical issues.
In the race, Kobayashi crashed out at the first corner due to a braking problem while Ericsson was forced to retire before the half-way mark due to oil pressure trouble.
“Without any real laps in FP1 or FP2, we only had a very small chance to fight.
“With a proper Friday and Saturday programme, we can give ourselves the opportunity to show the true pace of the car and prepare better for the race.
“I’d like to make sure I don’t have the same brake problems that caused the accident in turn one in Australia. Without that, I think we could have had a strong race. We’ll work as hard as we can to give ourselves the chance to really perform.”
Caterham have yet to earn their first F1 point so far.