Pre-Japan interview with Kamui Kobayashi

Pre-Japan interview with Kamui Kobayashi

27 September 2011 – Next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix will mark the first Formula 1 race in the country since it suffered the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster of March. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, the only Japanese driver currently in the field, shares his opinions ahead of Round 15 at Suzuka.

Kamui, what is your personal impression about the current situation in Japan?
After the news we received in March about the disaster became worse and worse, I think the way the country has recovered so far is impressive. This is because Japan received a lot of help from outside and also because the Japanese are very strong people and have given each other an awful lot of help and support. Of course, there is still a long way to go, but the progress has been remarkable.

Do you think it is good for the country or the people that F1 is going to Suzuka?
Yes, this is definitely the case. The Grand Prix is a very big event in Japan; it is something very positive for the people and for the country and also because of the international awareness the race brings - it makes people happy and they do enjoy Formula 1 a lot. So we are going racing there, as we have done in previous years, despite the tragedy that has hit the country.

Can you describe your feelings when you heard the news about the earthquake and the tsunami on 11 March?
I was testing our new car in Barcelona on that day. It was actually the final day of pre-season testing and it was my turn to do the last day. In the morning initially it didn’t sound too bad, but then the news got worse by the hour. It was very difficult to believe all we were hearing was happening and also difficult to concentrate on testing and the race simulation we were doing. It also made me think about the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl and this happening in a small country such as Japan made me wonder if I would ever be able to go home again, and that wasn’t nice. It wasn’t easy. It was very emotional.

How often have you been to Japan since?
Quite often. I also went straight to Tokyo after that Barcelona test.

Can you tell us about your initiatives to help?
Well, most importantly there were many initiatives done internationally and by various organisations. Personally I wanted to do something that would give people an opportunity to contribute small amounts of money. That is why we did the App ‘You are connected’ with pictures and messages from all F1 drivers and Team Principals for iPhones and iPads. It costs only 79 (euro) cents and in the first two months there were more than 10,000 downloads from people in 49 countries. The cost was small, but I think it is important that it was an opportunity for people who wanted to help. Also it was an achievement that all the F1 drivers and teams were doing this in a show of solidarity with the Japanese people. The price was low as, for example, if we asked for ten euros many people would not want to pay this much, but more people can afford to pay this one euro.

However, in the end I believe it is the government that has to help the country. For the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix I have invited a group of 60 people; this is a girls’ choir, called MJC Ensemble, from one of the disaster-affected regions, together with their parents or other family members. They come from Minami-Soma city in the Fukushima Prefecture and they will sing the National Anthem before the race. I have organised the bus trip, hotel rooms and tickets for them, so I just hope they have a nice time.

I have also had a role as an international ambassador for the Japan Tourism Agency for more than a year. In this role I have attended many meetings in Tokyo and try to support other projects as well. The fact that we don’t have a Japanese car manufacturer in F1 anymore makes it quite difficult for me - it would have helped if there was still one and the focus wasn’t so much on me.

Last year you made a very special deal with the organisers – can you explain that?
Yes, this was decided before the disaster struck. I agreed with the organisers that, for every championship point I scored in 2011 before the Japanese Grand Prix, I would invite one family to the 2011 Suzuka race. We received more than 6,000 letters from people who wanted to come. Every time I scored points I would randomly pick out that number of letters, so now I have chosen 27 families this way. However, because we had such a big response I have picked out an extra ten, and this means I shall have 37 families as my guests.

How would you sum up your 2011 season so far?
We are certainly more competitive than last year. We had an amazing start to the season in Melbourne and also since then have had some other good races in which we have been quite competitive. My highlights were Monaco and Montreal, but we have also had our struggles.

In Melbourne we lost ten points when we were disqualified, then I had punctures in Turkey and Barcelona and then gearbox problems at Silverstone and most recently at Monza. You can add to that the fact that not all of our technical developments during the season brought the progress we expected. So far it has been a mixed season with ups and downs, but it isn’t over yet.

Last year at Suzuka, qualifying and the race had to be held within a few hours of each other on Sunday because of torrential rain on Saturday. What are your memories of that?
For us it was a challenging situation with qualifying and the race on the same day. However, for the fans I think it was nice to have so much going on and they really deserved it because Saturday was terrible for them; they were sitting for six or seven hours in the pouring rain in the grandstands and they just kept waiting so patiently.

I was very pleased when the sun came out on Sunday and we not only had a good result, but also put on a great show. Actually, I think for the drivers the Suzuka circuit is usually more exciting than for the spectators, as it is quite technical, but last year on Sunday they had a lot of excitement. Despite this, I hope it won’t rain again this year.

Can you enjoy your home race?
I am proud to go home and race there, this is certain. I believe many other drivers would be sad if Suzuka disappeared from the calendar. The circuit is very popular and many of the drivers also like to go to Tokyo - I know this as they ask me what to do and where to go.

Finally, what is your aim for this year’s Japanese Grand Prix?
Last year’s result was the best we achieved in 2010. I came seventh, while my team-mate Nick Heidfeld finished eighth. Before that, I had very little experience at Suzuka and I was an F1 rookie, so I hope I can have an even better result this year. For the fans, I hope we have nice weather.

I think, with DRS and KERS, there is a good chance they will get to see a great show again and it would also be a perfect venue for the Drivers’ Championship to be decided. It is a proper race track, the karaoke parties are legendary and, again, it would mean really positive coverage for Japan.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 26 June 2017

  2. Video of the Day: Ecclestone, Briatore on F1 05:36

    Video of the Day: Ecclestone, Briatore on F1

    Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore take part in a fan Q&A session at the Baku City Circuit.

    F1
  3. 03:32

    Championship standings after Azerbaijan

    F1
  4. Sunday 25 June 2017

  5. Stewards: Hamilton drove 'correctly' at restart 21:59

    Stewards: Hamilton drove 'correctly' at restart

    Stewards at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix have determined that Lewis Hamilton did not brake test Sebastian Vettel prior to the…

    F1
  6. King excluded for tyre pressure infringement 21:21

    King excluded for tyre pressure infringement

    MP Motorsport driver Jordan King has been excluded from the results of the Formula 2 Sprint Race in Baku. King classified in…

    F2
  7. Dixon holds off Newgarden at Road America 20:37

    Dixon holds off Newgarden at Road America

    Scott Dixon held off a charging Josef Newgarden to win his first race of 2017 at Road America on Sunday. He had taken the lead…

    Indy
  8. Pérez: SFI was in position to take win 20:25

    Pérez: SFI was in position to take win

    Force India's Sergio Pérez believes he would have been in a position to triumph at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, had he not…

    F1
  9. 18:38

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Sunday in Baku

    F1
  10. Bottas 'never gave up' on recovery drive 18:36

    Bottas 'never gave up' on recovery drive

    Valtteri Bottas says his recovery from the back of the field to second position in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix showed the…

    F1
  11. Alonso: Podium, perhaps victory possible 17:47

    Alonso: Podium, perhaps victory possible

    Fernando Alonso reckons he could have won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a more competitive car, as a dramatic afternoon…

    F1
  12. Stroll stunned by maiden Formula 1 podium 17:42

    Stroll stunned by maiden Formula 1 podium

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll expressed bewilderment as he captured his maiden Formula 1 podium finish during a wild Azerbaijan…

    F1
  13. Vettel: Hamilton should have got penalty 17:11

    Vettel: Hamilton should have got penalty

    Sebastian Vettel heaped criticism on title rival Lewis Hamilton and stewards at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, believing the Briton…

    F1
  14. Hamilton: Vettel has 'disgraced himself' 17:03

    Hamilton: Vettel has 'disgraced himself'

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton believes title rival Sebastian Vettel "disgraced himself" with his conduct at the Azerbaijan…

    F1
  15. 'Giggling' Ricciardo stunned by Baku win 16:48

    'Giggling' Ricciardo stunned by Baku win

    Daniel Ricciardo admitted he was "giggling like a schoolboy" on the cool-down lap after he triumphed at a crazy Azerbaijan Grand…

    F1
  16. 16:16

    In full: Azerbaijan Grand Prix race results

    F1
  17. Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP 16:15

    Ricciardo wins chaotic Azerbaijan GP

    Daniel Ricciardo claimed his and Red Bull's first victory of the season in an action-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  18. 13:34

    Follow the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live!

    F1
  19. 13:02

    Starting grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

    F1
  20. Rossi ends win drought in Assen thriller 12:44

    Rossi ends win drought in Assen thriller

    Yamaha's Valentino Rossi captured his first MotoGP victory in over a year as he fended off Pramac rival Danilo Petrucci during a…

    MotoGP
  21. 12:26

    Latest Formula 2 photos: Sunday at Baku

    F2
  22. Nato takes Baku win after Leclerc penalty 12:25

    Nato takes Baku win after Leclerc penalty

    Norman Nato claimed Arden's first victory since 2012 as title leader Charles Leclerc was denied a Baku double victory due to a…

    F2
  23. 11:30

    Starting grid for the Dutch Grand Prix

    MotoGP
  24. Hamilton: Ferrari will 'be there' in race 10:16

    Hamilton: Ferrari will 'be there' in race

    Lewis Hamilton expects rival Ferrari to pose a challenge in race spec, despite Mercedes' sizeable one-lap advantage at the…

    F1
  25. Grosjean getting 'no feedback' from tyres 09:12

    Grosjean getting 'no feedback' from tyres

    Romain Grosjean says he is braced for a long race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after struggling for pace throughout the weekend…

    F1
  26. Morbidelli seals MotoGP deal with Marc VDS 08:35

    Morbidelli seals MotoGP deal with Marc VDS

    Moto2 championship leader Franco Morbidelli will step up to the premier class with Marc VDS in 2018, the team has confirmed…

    MotoGP
  27. Zarco targets podium from maiden pole 08:06

    Zarco targets podium from maiden pole

    Johann Zarco says a podium finish is his goal for the Dutch Grand Prix, having captured his maiden premier class pole position…

    MotoGP
  28. Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles 07:34

    Overview: Formula 1 qualifying battles

    As often highlighted: a Formula 1 driver's main reference point is their team-mate. Although race results and the final…

    F1
  29. Video of the Day: Ferrari's local greetings 05:32

    Video of the Day: Ferrari's local greetings

    Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen attempt a local message to fans from Azerbaijan.

    F1
  30. 01:46

    IndyCar photos: Qualifying at Road America

    Indy
  31. Castroneves claims 50th career pole 01:45

    Castroneves claims 50th career pole

    Hélio Castroneves captured the 50th pole of his long IndyCar career on Saturday in qualifying at Road America. The Brazilian…

    Indy
  32. Saturday 24 June 2017

  33. Video: Bizarre WTCC crash into fire truck 17:44

    Video: Bizarre WTCC crash into fire truck

    Tom Coronel crashes into a fire truck at the Portuguese round of the World Touring Car Championship.

    Misc
  34. Rowland demoted to seventh after penalty 17:06

    Rowland demoted to seventh after penalty

    DAMS driver Oliver Rowland has been handed a time penalty after he failed to slow sufficiently for yellow flags during the…

    F2
  35. 17:02

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Saturday in Baku

    F1
  36. Stroll: Set-up key to improved Baku display 16:50

    Stroll: Set-up key to improved Baku display

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll says that reverting to an older set-up is one of the main reasons behind his so far confident…

    F1
  37. Alonso: Rivals think we're on slow-down laps 16:49

    Alonso: Rivals think we're on slow-down laps

    Fernando Alonso believes McLaren-Honda's speed deficit is so pronounced that his rivals think he is on a slow lap when he is…

    F1
  38. Verstappen: P3 possible without problems 16:03

    Verstappen: P3 possible without problems

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen reckons technical glitches cost him third on the grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, describing a…

    F1
  39. Vettel: 'No excuses' over worst 2017 Q3 15:51

    Vettel: 'No excuses' over worst 2017 Q3

    Championship leader Sebastian Vettel accepts there are "no excuses" over his worst qualifying result of the campaign, though…

    F1
  40. Hamilton: Last gasp effort 'all or nothing' 15:32

    Hamilton: Last gasp effort 'all or nothing'

    Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton described his pole position lap as an "all or nothing" effort as he overhauled team-mate Valtteri…

    F1
  41. 15:15

    In full: Azerbaijan GP qualifying results

    F1
  42. Hamilton beats Bottas to Azerbaijan pole 15:14

    Hamilton beats Bottas to Azerbaijan pole

    Lewis Hamilton delivered another stunning qualifying performance to claim pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, ahead of…

    F1
  43. 14:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Assen

    MotoGP
more news