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. Thursday 27 April 2017

  2. 17:12

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  3. Rins out for 'six to eight weeks' after surgery 16:07

    Rins out for 'six to eight weeks' after surgery

    Suzuki rider Álex Rins has undergone successful surgery in Barcelona following a heavy accident during practice for the Grand…

    MotoGP
  4. 15:22

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Thursday at Sochi

    F1
  5. Video: Ferrari's Russian GP preview 15:02

    Video: Ferrari's Russian GP preview

    Ferrari looks ahead to this weekend's Russian Grand Prix by analysing the challenges of the Sochi Autodrom.

    F1
  6. Bottas not worried about team orders 14:43

    Bottas not worried about team orders

    Valtteri Bottas says he is not worried about Mercedes imposing any team orders, expressing confidence that "all of my good…

    F1
  7. Drivers offer mixed views over 'shield' 14:11

    Drivers offer mixed views over 'shield'

    Formula 1 drivers have offered mixed views over the 'shield' head protection device that could be introduced from the 2018…

    F1
  8. Haas moves to Carbon Industrie brakes 13:41

    Haas moves to Carbon Industrie brakes

    Haas will run with Carbon Industrie brake products from this weekend's Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom, following a…

    F1
  9. In photos: Russian GP from 2014-16 11:23

    In photos: Russian GP from 2014-16

    Sochi Autodrom, situated in and around the Olympic Park, will host the fourth Russian Grand Prix this weekend. GPUpdate.net…

    F1
  10. Speed bumps added to Turn 2 at Sochi 09:18

    Speed bumps added to Turn 2 at Sochi

    Speed bumps have been added to Sochi Autodrom's Turn 2 ahead of this year's Russian Grand Prix, in a bid to stop drivers from…

    F1
  11. Video: What's on Robin Frijns' phone? 09:02

    Video: What's on Robin Frijns' phone?

    Find out what's on Robin Frijns' phone, including photos of an epic karting battle with Stoffel Vandoorne.

    FE
  12. Lowe expects 'strong' Williams in Russia 08:45

    Lowe expects 'strong' Williams in Russia

    Williams Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe says he expects a "strong" performance from Williams at this weekend's Russian Grand…

    F1
  13. Video of the Day: Sergio Pérez on Sochi 05:38

    Video of the Day: Sergio Pérez on Sochi

    Force India driver Sergio Pérez talks through a lap of the Sochi Autodrom, home of the Russian Grand Prix, where he secured a…

    F1
  14. Wednesday 26 April 2017

  15. Pagenaud hails 'courageous' Alonso over Indy 15:48

    Pagenaud hails 'courageous' Alonso over Indy

    Reigning IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud thinks Fernando Alonso's decision to compete at this year's Indianapolis 500 is…

    Indy
  16. Suzuki: COTA result crucial for development 14:18

    Suzuki: COTA result crucial for development

    Suzuki Team Manager Davide Brivio says Andrea Iannone's performance at the Circuit of the Americas will be "crucial" for the…

    MotoGP
  17. Hülkenberg hopeful over Renault race pace 11:27

    Hülkenberg hopeful over Renault race pace

    Renault's Nico Hülkenberg is hopeful that the team will be able to demonstrate improved race pace in Russia this weekend…

    F1
  18. Video: Onboard lap of Sochi Autodrom 10:22

    Video: Onboard lap of Sochi Autodrom

    Ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, ride onboard for a lap of the 5.8km Sochi Autodrom circuit.

    F1
  19. Wolff encouraged by progress of juniors 09:34

    Wolff encouraged by progress of juniors

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has praised the progress made by youngsters Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon in Formula 1 this season…

    F1
  20. Monger thanks supporters after accident 08:41

    Monger thanks supporters after accident

    Billy Monger has expressed gratitude for the "awesome and truly inspirational" support he has received in the wake of his…

    Misc
  21. Hildebrand to make return at Phoenix 08:24

    Hildebrand to make return at Phoenix

    J. R. Hildebrand will return to IndyCar at Phoenix this weekend, having sat out the preceding event at Barber through…

    Indy
  22. Preview: F1 field faces Olympic challenge 07:32

    Preview: F1 field faces Olympic challenge

    Formula 1 moves on to Sochi Autodrom for the fourth round of the season, where another Ferrari/Mercedes battle is anticipated.…

    F1
  23. Video of the Day: GP of Alabama cutdown 05:37

    Video of the Day: GP of Alabama cutdown

    Watch extended highlights of last weekend's Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

    Indy
  24. Tuesday 25 April 2017

  25. F1 to focus on 'shield' system for 2018 20:13

    F1 to focus on 'shield' system for 2018

    Formula 1 is to favour a 'shield' head protection device for the 2018 season, rather than the previously proposed 'halo' system…

    F1
  26. Pérez: Force India has taken opportunities 15:47

    Pérez: Force India has taken opportunities

    Sergio Pérez has praised Force India for taking its chances in the early rounds of the 2017 season, enough to put the team at…

    F1
  27. Sirotkin to get practice run in Russia 14:15

    Sirotkin to get practice run in Russia

    Renault reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin will make his first practice outing of the season at his home Grand Prix in Russia, the…

    F1
  28. Pirelli expecting one-stop Russian GP 13:30

    Pirelli expecting one-stop Russian GP

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli is expecting this weekend's Russian Grand Prix to be a one-stop race, given the "low-severity…

    F1
  29. Video: Michelin's all-weather FE tyres 12:04

    Video: Michelin's all-weather FE tyres

    Formula E provides an insight into the technology behind Michelin's all-weather tyres.

    FE
  30. Lorenzo: Front tyre graining hid step 11:12

    Lorenzo: Front tyre graining hid step

    Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo is adamant that he made another "step forward" at the Grand Prix of the Americas, pinning his late slump…

    MotoGP
  31. Newgarden hails 'fluid' Penske integration 09:53

    Newgarden hails 'fluid' Penske integration

    Josef Newgarden has praised Penske for its efforts to help him integrate over the off-season, after he claimed his first victory…

    Indy
  32. Video: Alonso's Alabama IndyCar visit 09:03

    Video: Alonso's Alabama IndyCar visit

    Follow Fernando Alonso as he tours the IndyCar paddock at the Barber Motorsports Park.

    F1
  33. Alonso targets two-car McLaren finish 07:32

    Alonso targets two-car McLaren finish

    Fernando Alonso hopes that McLaren-Honda will be able to record a two-car finish at this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, after a…

    F1
  34. Video of the Day: Kvyat 360° Sochi lap 05:36

    Video of the Day: Kvyat 360° Sochi lap

    Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat takes you on a virtual 360° lap of Sochi Autodrom ahead of the Russian GP.

    F1
  35. Monday 24 April 2017

  36. Video: Alonso press conference at Barber 16:04

    Video: Alonso press conference at Barber

    Watch as Fernando Alonso fields questions about his upcoming attempt at the Indianapolis 500.

    F1
  37. In photos: Alonso visits IndyCar paddock 12:35

    In photos: Alonso visits IndyCar paddock

    Fernando Alonso attended last weekend's Grand Prix of Alabama as part of his preparations for an assault on the Indianapolis 500…

    F1
  38. Video: Performing a perfect FE pit-stop 12:02

    Video: Performing a perfect FE pit-stop

    Venturi driver Maro Engel talks through the key elements to pull off a perfect Formula E pit-stop.

    FE
  39. Viñales vows to return 'stronger' after crash 11:12

    Viñales vows to return 'stronger' after crash

    Maverick Viñales says he will quickly put his crash at the Grand Prix of the Americas to the back of his mind and return…

    MotoGP
  40. Venturi calls up Dillmann for Paris ePrix 10:20

    Venturi calls up Dillmann for Paris ePrix

    Tom Dillmann will make his Formula E debut with Venturi in next month's Paris ePrix. Dillmann, who won the Formula V8 3.5…

    FE
  41. Rossi's 2017 title lead 'a great surprise' 10:02

    Rossi's 2017 title lead 'a great surprise'

    Valentino Rossi says it comes as "a great surprise" to himself and Yamaha that he leads the MotoGP title race after the first…

    MotoGP
  42. Video: IndyCar GP of Alabama highlights 09:32

    Video: IndyCar GP of Alabama highlights

    Watch highlights of Sunday's IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

    Indy
  43. Márquez 'back' in title race with Austin win 09:16

    Márquez 'back' in title race with Austin win

    Repsol Honda rider Marc Márquez says he is "back in the championship" fight after his victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas…

    MotoGP
  44. Video of the Day: Prema's 'Guess the song' 05:24

    Video of the Day: Prema's 'Guess the song'

    Prema Formula 2 drivers Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco, along with Formula 4 pair Juri Vips and Juan Manuel Correa, challenge…

    F2
more news