Kobayashi: I'm ready to drive Caterham forward
6 February 2014 – Kamui Kobayashi has made a welcome return to the Formula 1 paddock this season, donning Caterham overhauls for his second attempt at the 'big time'. GPUpdate.net sat down with the 27-year-old Japanese at last week's Jerez test, where the majority of outfits debuted their turbocharged 2014 challengers...
"It's definitely a nice feeling," says Kobayashi, as he enjoys the comfort of his new team's hospitality unit. "This is what I wanted, to be back in F1. There are a lot of rule changes, so every team has a chance to do well now."
He continues: "It's going to be a surprise this year. Just look at how few cars were running on the first test day. Also at Caterham, it wasn't a good situation. Hopefully we can make the car competitive before Melbourne."
Kobayashi's return comes after a one-year hiatus. Having been unable to secure a seat for the 2013 campaign, he made the switch to Ferrari, for whom he raced a Ferrari 458 in the World Endurance Championship. And despite crashing the team's F1 showcar during a promotional event in Moscow, he enjoyed the overall journey.
"I had a good time last year," reflects Kobayashi. "Working with Ferrari was a very good experience. But there were less than ten races in GT. In F1 you have 19 or 20 races, which is far more intense. So I had more than enough time to prepare for this F1 comeback.
"I had a lot of time for myself; I am completely relaxed. I'm ready to focus 100 percent on my job at Caterham."
Kobayashi first had contact with Caterham in December, following which negotiations over a potential drive progressed "very quickly". And although he concedes that steps need to be made if the Leafield-based team is to fight with the sport's top outfits in the future, he has been impressed with what he has seen to date.
"My impression of the team is very good," the former Toyota and Sauber driver explains. "They have a lot of work to do if they want to become successful, but I can really feel that this team wants to do a good job.
"This team finished at the bottom [of the Constructors' Championship] last year so there is definitely something to be done, but this team has a lot of potential and I will work hard to help them. I'm ready for that."
Kobayashi will be aided in his mission by rookie team-mate Marcus Ericsson and reserve Robin Frijns. Both are young drivers boasting feeder category success, particularly in Frijns' case, and he is pleased to see opportunities go their way.
"It's good that the team has two young drivers," he says. "I'm very happy to work with them and I am used to that situation, since I worked with [now Force India driver] Sergio Pérez at Sauber. I haven't worked a lot with Marcus and Robin yet, I just met them one week before the test. Let's see if we can develop a strong car together."
It has been so far, so good for Kobayashi, whose podium on home soil in 2012 is the personal best finish he will be hoping to surpass in future seasons. But what one aspect would he like to change ahead of his comeback?
"The new engines make F1 sound like F3," Kobayashi mutters. "I prefer the V8 sound for sure..."