Back on the Formula One grid after a one year hiatus, team Caterham’s newest member, Kamui Kobayashi, is all set and raring to go. The 27-year-old Japanese race car driver talks to travel 3Sixty° about his foray into the world of F1, what happens on race weekend, and expectations for the 2014 racing season.
Compiled By: Chitra Santhinathan Images: Caterham F1® Team
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK ON THE GRID?
It feels very good! I’ve worked hard to make my comeback and I’ve been given a really warm welcome by the team, fans and everyone in F1, so it’s great. I want to thank everybody, especially the fans, Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes (Caterham Group Co-chairman) and the team for believing in me.
ARE YOU EXCITED TO BE RACING WITH TEAM CATERHAM?
I am. From Tony at the top to all the guys in the race team and the factory, everyone is so passionate and works so hard to make progress; I know I can help do that. My experience and their determination are a powerful combination for what I believe will be an exciting year ahead.
HOW DID YOU FARE AT THE PRE-SEASON TEST?
I’m answering these questions in the middle of the test and it has been going pretty well. We’ve run more laps than any other team with a Renault engine and it’s been really good so far.
DO YOU THINK THE RECENT CHANGES MADE TO F1 ENGINE REGULATIONS WILL HAVE ANY EFFECT ON YOUR RACING?
Not on how I race, but maybe, on how I drive. With the new power unit and the combination of the V6 turbo engine and the electric motor, we have more torque than the old V8s, which means you have to approach the entry, middle and exit of the corners slightly differently, but that’s just about adapting to the engine.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE UP RACING?
I started karting at the age of nine. It was great fun, but to be honest, my childhood dream was to become a comedian! I never imagined I would become an F1 driver.
WHO WAS YOUR RACE CAR HERO WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
I’ve been asked this question many times, but I don’t have any. My family has nothing to do with motorsports and my father didn’t even own a car! I saw a TV commercial advertising a kart track near my home and I asked my father to take me there – that’s how it all began. Even when I was karting in Japan, Formula One was a completely different world that I never thought I’d have any chance of being in!
WHY ARE YOU DRAWN TO F1 RACING?
The technology of the cars, the level of competition and the teams are the ultimate in the racing world. It’s the pinnacle of motorsports – It’s that simple! Throughout my year away from F1 in 2013, I was really aware of how much F1 stands out from any other motorsport and how much I missed the technology and competition. They have the fastest, most technologically-advanced race cars on the planet, and therefore, attract the best drivers. That’s why F1 is so popular for fans, sponsors and drivers!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CIRCUIT AND WHY?
I have two – Spa (Belgium) and Suzuka (Japan), because both are drivers’ tracks with very challenging high speed corners. I like the flow of corners, and obviously with Suzuka, it’s nice to race in front of my home crowd.
WHICH RACE ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ON THE F1 CALENDAR?
Again, the Japanese Grand Prix will be very special this year. Coming home to race again is going to be just amazing for me and the team and I can’t wait to see the stands full of green (Caterham colours) – that’s going to be so cool! I’m also looking forward to the Australian Grand Prix; it will be my fi rst race since returning and we’ve been working hard in preparation.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING RACE IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
There have been quite a few races throughout my career that have been tough, but I always race as hard as I can, and if there’s a challenge, I like to take it on and beat it!
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A RACE?
Race weekends always have a similar schedule. We start with a track walk with the engineers on the Thursday before the race to get a feel of the circuit. On Friday, we have two practice sessions, and then, we work with the engineers late into the night to prepare the car for race day. On Saturday, we have the third practice session followed by the qualifying race – the shootout for the positions on the grid on Sunday. That’s basically it. Also, I like to go to bed early on the night before the big race.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL ROUTINE ON RACE DAY?
No. I eat well in the morning, drink the right amount of liquids, and then, warm up for the race itself. Then, it’s time to get in the car and race!
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU’RE ON THE GRID, JUST BEFORE A RACE IS FLAGGED OFF?
I try to be calm and quiet. Not excited or emotional, so I’ll be able to react quickly to anything that’s going to happen.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO CROSS THE FINISH LINE?
If you’re on the podium, it just feels amazing! If you’re not, knowing you’ve done your very best, still feels good.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR YOURSELF AND TEAM CATERHAM THIS SEASON?
While we’re realistic about what we can achieve this year, we’ve worked really hard, and the main thing is that we do the best job we can. For more on Kamui Kobayashi and the Caterham F1 team, go to www.caterhamf1.com.