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Kobayashi: I’m now a true F1 driver

9 Oct

Kamui Kobayashi now regards himself as a fully-fledged Formula One driver, having secured his maiden podium finish on home soil at Suzuka in front of an impassioned Japanese crowd.

Once again, Kobayashi pulled off a sensational qualifying performance and lined-up third – he was promoted one place following a five-place grid drop for McLaren’s Jenson Button – for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix on the tight and twisty Suzuka circuit.

However, in contrast to previous races, the 26-year old managed to stay out of trouble, avoiding the first-corner chaos to convert his qualifying result into third place, seeing off a challenge in the final seven laps from a charging Button.

Kobayashi said: “I’ve always felt that if you ever want to look back and regard yourself as a Formula One driver, you have to have been on the podium at least once. Without such a photo it’s a bit as if you had never been there, so it means a lot to me.

“I had a couple of chances earlier in the season but missed them due to bad luck. I knew that the potential was there and this time it all went smoothly.”

The result lifted a great deal of pressure from Kobayashi’s shoulders after facing a lot of speculation about his future with Sauber. And the Japanese racer is more determined than ever to help the Hinwii-based team achieve fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

“I instantly relaxed when all the pressure came off,” said Kobayashi. “Without doubt it was a very important race for me in my career. And I felt: yes, now we will be having more strong races and really go for fifth place in the constructors’ championship.”

GP Week – Issue 170 (Japanese Grand Prix)

8 Oct

Another issue of GP Week in the bag.

Kobayashi in good spirits ahead of home race at Suzuka

1 Oct

Kamui Kobayashi expects Sauber to return to form at his home grand prix on the fast and technical Suzuka circuit this weekend (Sun 7 Oct).

A podium finish on the ultra-high speed Monza circuit for Sergio Perez meant expectations were high as the Hinwii-based Sauber team arrived in Singapore. However, the C31 was relatively uncompetitive throughout the weekend, with Perez scraping a solitary point for tenth and Kobayashi finishing down in a lowly 13th place at the end of an arduous two-hour race.

Despite the Singapore disappointment, spirits are high at Sauber as it prepares for the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix. Kobayashi expects to be in the mix for a strong result in front of a passionate home crowd, especially as his team plans to introduce a host of new aero upgrades, including a revised front-wing.

“I’m very much looking forward to my home grand prix at Suzuka,” said Kobayashi. “I think our car should be very fast there and we also will get new parts on the C31.

“I am confident about getting a good result in front of my fellow countrymen. Last year I qualified seventh on the grid, but then had a problem at the start and only finished 13th.”

In 2011, spectators remained in the grandstands for hours after the race to celebrate Sebastian Vettel’s second consecutive world title and Kobayashi praised the Japanese fans’ commitment, saying: “The Japanese fans are great and the mood and atmosphere they create is an enormous support. And it is not only me who they cheer for!

“They are true Formula One fans and that is why I’m really proud of them. Nowhere else will you find the fans being at the circuit so early in the morning and staying for so long at night, no matter what the weather is like.”

Vettel keen for more success on ‘favourite’ Suzuka track

1 Oct

Sebastian Vettel was disappointed to secure his second world title with a third place in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix and is looking to make amends as Formula One heads back to Suzuka this weekend (Sun 7 Oct).

The young German took a crucial race win on the streets of Singapore less than a fortnight ago to close the gap to points leader Fernando Alonso in the Drivers’ standings and will hope to carry that momentum to Japan’s legendary Suzuka circuit, which he describes as his ‘favourite track’.

Red Bull Racing’s Vettel has previous race-winning form in the land of the rising sun; he was victorious in 2009 and 2010 and, despite missing out on the win last year, achieved a third place to secure his second consecutive world title.

“I love the Suzuka circuit,” said Vettel. “In short, it has the most amazing corners and brilliant fans, I really like coming here. The track itself is huge and almost every metre of it is special.

“In 2011 the country experienced unbelievable difficulties, so it was extremely important to try and give them some enjoyment and to show our support for their suffering.”

But, he added: “I wish I had won in 2011. It was my third Formula One race on my favourite track and it still bothers me a bit that I took my world title with a third place.”

Schumacher’s F1 future is unclear

28 Sep

There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Michael Schumacher’s future in Formula One, following this morning’s news that Lewis Hamilton will switch to the Mercedes AMG Petronas team in 2013.

There has been significant shifts in the F1 driver market today; McLaren revealed that rapid Mexican Sergio Perez – who has so far achieved three giant-killing podium finishes for Sauber this season – will partner Jenson Button at the team next year, with Mercedes AMG confirming Lewis Hamilton as part of its 2013 driver line-up shortly after.

Of course, this leaves seven-time world champion Schumacher without a drive for 2013. Many of the rumours link him to Perez’s Sauber seat, but the German is yet to confirm his plans.

Instead, Schumacher said: “I have had three nice years with the team which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side.

“I wish Lewis well and for the team to achieve the success we worked so hard for in the build-up. I would like to thank the team for their trust and all the guys for their unconditional commitment. I will now concentrate on the next races.”

Mercedes boss, Ross Brawn praised Schumacher’s contribution over the last three years, even though both he and the Brackley-based team hoped for more from the partnership.

He said: “On behalf of Mercedes AMG Petronas, I would first of all like to thank Michael Schumacher for the important contribution he has made to the growth of our team over the past three seasons.

“His energy and commitment have never wavered, even when results have not matched our own expectations, and we are determined to finish the 2012 season together on a high. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with Michael.”

Hamilton signs three-year deal with Mercedes

28 Sep

It has been confirmed that Lewis Hamilton has signed a three-year deal to race for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team from 2013 onwards.

Earlier today (Friday 28 September), McLaren revealed that Sergio Perez will replace Hamilton as of next season, ending weeks of speculation about the Briton’s future.

The 2008 world champion has been driving for the Woking-based team since first entering Formula One in 2007, but has decided it’s time for “a fresh challenge” and will race alongside his former karting team-mate Nico Rosberg who will contest his fourth consecutive season with the Silver Arrows squad in 2013.

“It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter racing for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team,” said Hamilton.

“Mercedes-Benz has such an incredible heritage in motorsport, along with a passion for winning which I share. Together, we can grow and rise to this new challenge. I believe that I can help steer the Silver Arrows to the top and achieve our joint ambitions of winning the world championships.”

Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, added: “I am delighted to welcome Lewis Hamilton to our team. The arrival of a driver of Lewis’s calibre is a testament to the standing of Mercedes-Benz in Formula One and I am proud that Lewis shares our vision and ambition for the success of the Silver Arrows.

“I believe that the combination of Lewis and Nico will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year, and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.”

Williams buoyed by Singapore speed

26 Sep

Williams F1’s chief operations engineer, Mark Gillan, says the Grove-based team is buoyed by the pace it showed at last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix (23 Sept).

Pastor Maldonado stunned everybody by qualifying his Williams FW34 on the front-row of the grid alongside Lewis Hamilton and one-place ahead of the man many tipped for pole position, Sebastian Vettel.

Maldonado lost track position on the run to turn one but stood his ground against championship leader Fernando Alonso until, on lap 36, a hydraulic problem spelled the end of his race.

Bruno Senna in the sister Williams was also pacey. A collision with the wall in qualifying and a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change meant he started down in 22nd. But the Brazilian scythed his way up the order and was on for a points finish until an unconfirmed mechanical glitch brought his car to a halt on the final lap.

“It was an extremely frustrating weekend,” said Gillan. “It’s what I would call character building, with the high expectations following a front row qualification and fast race pace ultimately dashed due to a double DNF and a risky strategy call.”

But, while Maldonado was denied a potential podium result – his first points score since taking his maiden Formula One win at the Spanish Grand Prix in May – and Senna a strong points score, Gillian remains optimistic about Williams’s prospects for the remainder of the 2012 season.

“It gives us a tremendous amount of confidence,” Gillan continued. “We saw that the car was capable of qualifying on the front row and that the race pace was equally impressive. Both drivers did a very good job in the race, with Pastor fighting hard at the front and Bruno carving his way from the back into a points scoring position before having to retire the car.

He added: “The Singapore result was particularly painful so we are out to make amends and expect to be strong.”