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. Sunday 26 March 2017

  2. 20:48

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Losail

    MotoGP
  3. 20:47

    In full: Qatar Grand Prix race results

    MotoGP
  4. Viñales victorious in scintillating Qatar race 20:28

    Viñales victorious in scintillating Qatar race

    Maverick Viñales claimed victory on his Yamaha debut after prevailing against Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso during a thrilling…

    MotoGP
  5. 18:00

    Starting grid for the Qatar Grand Prix

    MotoGP
  6. 16:07

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Melbourne

    F1
  7. Clear: Australia win 'fell into our hands' 16:05

    Clear: Australia win 'fell into our hands'

    Ferrari's Head of Race Activities Jock Clear believes victory at the Australian Grand Prix "fell into our hands" after early…

    F1
  8. Giovinazzi lauds 'fantastic' F1 debut 12:26

    Giovinazzi lauds 'fantastic' F1 debut

    Sauber's Antonio Giovinazzi hailed a "fantastic" weekend as he claimed 12th place on his Formula 1 debut at the Australian Grand…

    F1
  9. Massa delighted to lead midfield charge 11:38

    Massa delighted to lead midfield charge

    Williams' Felipe Massa labelled himself as "really happy" as he led the charge in Formula 1's midfield by placing sixth at the…

    F1
  10. Sainz Jr. hails 'confidence boost' for STR 11:02

    Sainz Jr. hails 'confidence boost' for STR

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says Toro Rosso's performance at the Australian Grand Prix has acted as "confidence boost" for the team…

    F1
  11. Pérez reckons seventh place maximum 10:27

    Pérez reckons seventh place maximum

    Sergio Pérez believes he extracted the maximum from Force India's potential as he finished in seventh position at the…

    F1
  12. 10:02

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  13. Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race 09:24

    Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has conceded that Ferrari simply had the quicker package during the Australian Grand Prix, highlighting…

    F1
  14. Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions' 09:08

    Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions'

    Fernando Alonso fears that McLaren-Honda could be Formula 1's slowest team "in normal conditions", despite an encouraging…

    F1
  15. Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas 08:57

    Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo says two separate issues on his RB13 compounded his dismal Australian Grand Prix weekend, as he…

    F1
  16. Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push 08:36

    Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push

    Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne has reacted to Sebastian Vettel's victory at the Australian Grand Prix with a statement…

    F1
  17. Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint 08:29

    Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint

    Lewis Hamilton conceded he simply "ran out of grip" during the first stint of the Australian Grand Prix, as he missed out on…

    F1
  18. Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win 08:07

    Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win

    Sebastian Vettel described himself as "over the moon" after he opened his and Ferrari's 2017 Formula 1 campaign with victory at…

    F1
  19. 07:39

    In full: Australian Grand Prix race results

    F1
  20. Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win 07:36

    Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win

    Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, after going longer on a one-stop…

    F1
  21. 05:34

    Follow the Australian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  22. Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox 05:16

    Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox

    Williams has been handed a €25,000 fine, suspended for the entirety of the season, after failing to inform the FIA of its…

    F1
  23. 05:02

    Starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix

    F1
  24. Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty 03:27

    Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty

    Daniel Ricciardo has been dealt another blow at his home event in Australia, with Red Bull changing his gearbox after he crashed…

    F1
  25. Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race 03:12

    Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli is expecting a one-stop strategy to emerge as the favoured approach by drivers for the…

    F1
  26. Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari 02:44

    Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team is braced for a "big fight" with rival Ferrari ahead of the season-opening Australian…

    F1
  27. Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected' 02:32

    Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected'

    Fernando Alonso says that McLaren-Honda's Australian Grand Prix weekend has gone "better than we'd expected" after pre-season…

    F1
  28. Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained 02:01

    Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained

    Ahead of the season-opener, Lewis Hamilton provides a refresher on what's new in F1 in 2017.

    F1
  29. Saturday 25 March 2017

  30. 18:28

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Losail

    MotoGP
  31. Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation 18:27

    Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation

    Yamaha's Maverick Viñales and Repsol Honda's Marc Márquez backed the call made by MotoGP officials to cancel all of Saturday's…

    MotoGP
  32. MotoGP cancels qualifying, pole for Viñales 17:23

    MotoGP cancels qualifying, pole for Viñales

    MotoGP has cancelled all of Saturday's action for the floodlit Qatar Grand Prix due to inclement weather conditions at Losail…

    MotoGP
  33. Rossi: Corner entry weakness hurting pace 14:22

    Rossi: Corner entry weakness hurting pace

    Yamaha's Valentino Rossi says he is still suffering from a lack of speed on corner entry after scraping through to Q2 at the…

    MotoGP
  34. 13:12

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday in Melbourne

    F1
  35. Giovinazzi thought F1 call-up was a joke 13:02

    Giovinazzi thought F1 call-up was a joke

    Formula 1 debutant Antonio Giovianzzi says he thought he was being tricked when he received the news that he would be competing…

    F1
  36. Bratches: No shortage of aspiring F1 hosts 12:46

    Bratches: No shortage of aspiring F1 hosts

    New Formula 1 commercial chief Sean Bratches says that he has received a substantial number of enquiries from venues keen to…

    F1
  37. Williams referred to stewards over gearbox 12:31

    Williams referred to stewards over gearbox

    Williams has been referred to the Australian Grand Prix stewards after failing to notify the FIA of its intention to replace the…

    F1
  38. Magnussen rues 'messed up' qualifying runs 11:20

    Magnussen rues 'messed up' qualifying runs

    Haas' Kevin Magnussen admitted he "messed up" his qualifying runs through overdriving as he was knocked out of Q1 at the…

    F1
  39. Ocon eyes first points from 14th place 10:12

    Ocon eyes first points from 14th place

    Esteban Ocon is optimistic that he can make amends for a mistake on his final flying lap in Q2 to compete for points during his…

    F1
  40. Sainz Jr. relieved after Q1, Q2 struggles 10:00

    Sainz Jr. relieved after Q1, Q2 struggles

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he was relieved to take eighth on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix after struggling with the balance…

    F1
  41. Pérez escapes with reprimand for violation 09:08

    Pérez escapes with reprimand for violation

    Force India's Sergio Pérez has escaped with a reprimand after the stewards deemed that he breached the regulations during…

    F1
  42. Pérez summoned over alleged rule breach 08:43

    Pérez summoned over alleged rule breach

    Sergio Pérez has been summoned by the Australian Grand Prix stewards over an alleged rule breach during Saturday's qualifying…

    F1
more news