Kamui Kobayashi’s F1 career in pictures

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Kamui Kobayashi’s hard-charging style made him a favourite with fans – so much so that they helped fund his return to F1 last year.

However the demise of Caterham means one of F1’s most popular drivers without a seat again for 2015. Here’s a look back on his career to date.


Kobayashi’s gutsy race craft impressed many when he made his F1 debut at the end of 2009 as a substitute for injured Toyota driver Timo Glock. He twice went wheel-to-wheel with new champion Jenson Button and beat team mate Jarno Trulli to sixth at Yas Marina.

Unfortunately for Kobayashi, Toyota pulled the plug on its F1 programme at the end of the year. But he’d already done enough to claim a place on the grid for the following year.


BMW also canned its F1 programme at the end of 2009, but its team returned to founder Peter Sauber, who took a gamble on Kobayashi. Although unreliability dogged the team early in the year, by mid-season Kobayashi was back among the points-scorers.

His most memorable performance that year came at Valencia, where an alternative tyre strategy helped him pass Fernando Alonso and, on the final lap, Sebastien Buemi for seventh place. He went one better next time out at Silverstone, and by the end of the year had contributed more to Sauber’s points tally than team mates Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld.

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The 2011 season began on a sour note: Kobayashi and new team mate Sergio Perez were disqualified having finished in the points at the season-opener at Melbourne. Kobayashi bounced back with six consecutive points finishes, including a fifth place at Monaco which was his best result so far.


In 2012 Perez’s star rose higher, and Kobayashi found himself increasingly eclipsed. While his less experienced team mate collected a trio of podium finishes, question grew over when Kobayashi might do the same.

Spa was an agonising missed opportunity. Having claimed his first and so far only front row start alongside pole sitter Button, Kobayashi was eliminated in a first-corner crash triggered by Romain Grosjean.

Ironically a similar incident involving Grosjean at Suzuka played into Kobayashi’s hands. It helped him into second place, and although he lost a place to Felipe Massa he withstood pressure from Button to claim his first podium finish. That, however, was not enough to keep him at Sauber for another year.


After losing his seat at Sauber, Kobayashi took the unusual route of inviting fans to contribute towards a fund to keep him in Formula One. Although he was unable to secure a place on the grid for 2013, the Kamui Support initiative landed him a place at Caterham for 2014.

However the Renault-powered CT05 proved both unreliable and slow. At the first race of the year a brake-by-wire glitch caused a substantial crash involving Massa’s Williams. The team was sold at mid-season, and following the Russian Grand Prix it went into administration.

Although it reappeared for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi – thanks to another crowdfund – Kobayashi retired from the race, and was again left without a seat for the new season.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “Kamui Kobayashi’s F1 career in pictures”

  1. Gutted for him, such an entertaining and talented driver. Would have been great to see him in properly competitive machinary, just to see what he could do. I rated him more than Perez, who is keeping the much lauded Nico Hulkenberg fairly honest.

  2. This guy will dominate this years super formula series for sure and again prove what an amazing talent he is.

  3. The first and last pictures clearly show that currently there’s no culture and discipline as far as helmet designs are concerned. Therefore a (temporary) ban on helmet design changes is, in my opinion, a good initiative.

  4. Quite possibly the most overrated driver I’ve been witness to in 30 odd years of following F1.

    1. @psynrg Quite possibly an opinion I least agreed with, here, recently

      1. @montreal95 I’m in agreement in that I can’t disagree with @psynrg any more than than this.

        He was a hard fighter and solid finisher. He was great fun to watch and had an amazing attitude too.

        Okay, he wasn’t the fastest driver ever, but a losing him is huge loss to F1. A really massive shame, especially as he is surely better than a third of the 2015 field.

        1. @strontium Yep. There are only 10 F1 drivers who I can say with high degree of certainty are better than KK: Merc drivers, Ferrari drivers, Mclaren drivers, Hulk, Grosjean, Bottas, Ricciardo. And a couple of these are less entertaining by far!

    2. Also one of the most exciting

    3. Wrong story my friend…

    4. The Sutil story was yesterday.

    5. @montreal95 Sure, but I just never bought the hype. A couple of interesting moments when he was in the Toyota but that was it. The same could be said of Trulli/R.Schumacher at the time.
      I cannot remember anything else. Oh hang on, the 2012 Japanese GP! Shortly after which he was dropped by Sauber.

      1. @psynrg Sounds like you don’t watch further back than the podium. But Kobayashi’s biggest advantage was nullified by DRS.

        1. @fastiesty but doesn’t that apply to all drivers. I’m no fan of DRS but it’s clutching at straws to say that’s why he didn’t really shine on track.

          His performance in other pre-F1 series is hardly illuminating – he won 2 races only in his championship year, so yeah, sfsffsf consistent driver, but not one of particular note, IMHO.

          I know I’m going to be in a minority, if not a total loser in a Kobayashi tribute thread.

          I’m not knocking the person, he always came across really decent and indeed quite likeable. But as driver… mid field at best with occasional lucky stirkes…

          1. no idea how the “sfsffsf” crept in there!

            …so sure, a consistent driver… is what it should have said.

          2. Well, to be fair @psynrg, I think you are right on that front. Kobayashi was always a bit inconsistent, and to be top level, you need ultra-consistency… top of the midfield, how he went in the Sauber pre-Perez, is a good reflection of his best. If only he got more time in the 2009 Toyota (maybe starting the Japanese GP)/2010 Toyota.

            Pre-DRS, passing was a real art, hence how he made such an impact early on. Hamilton was also renowned for this, along with generally the more aggressively styled drivers. DRS allows guys like Perez an easier time of it, as they never have a problem passing and can continue to look after their tyres at the same time.

          3. Plus, FR2.0 is a better marker than GP2 Asia.. Kamui won the 2005 Italian and Eurocup series (12 wins), beating Ammermuller, while Grosjean won 11 races in a row in the French series. In GP2 Asia, Hulkenberg was more impressive, so that also matches with F1 (Hulk > Kamui).

      2. @psynrg Didn’t you read the article above? There are quite a few suggestions there like Valencia 2010, Suzuka 2010, Suzuka 2012. What about all those consecutive points finishes? What about great qualy performances in 2012 that get forgotten only because he got 1 podium compared with Perez’ 3? Btw in all those podiums Perez was out-qualified by KK and then went to alternative strategy. I can name many more great performance by KK like Silverstone 2010 for example when he was truly amazing. But really, if you say that he only had a couple of good performances at Toyota, then you weren’t really watching F1 in 2010-12 and in 2014 as well, since KK got out of that Caterham the maximum and even more. Many praise Bianchi’s points scoring in Monaco, but he effectively crashed KK out of the way to get them.

        And let me to respond about DRS as well. You said “but doesn’t it apply to all drivers?” . Well, not equally. If there’s a driver of KK’s supreme overtaking ability , then an introduction of a device that makes overtaking easier is going to hurt him more than other, less talented at overtaking drivers. It’s simple logic: make anything easier and more can succeed at it. Say, make cars physically easier to drive and even 17-yr olds can handle them no problem. And surprise, surprise, one already does.

  5. Money > Talent
    Ericsson > Kobayashi

  6. I always felt Kobayashi’s career highlighted why the sport needs it’s midfield teams and why it should be trying harder to keep them alive. He was a driver who lacked that little bit of pace/consistency to land a drive at one of the big teams but would occasionally punch above the weight of the machinery he was in and would go wheel to wheel with anyone and everyone if the opportunity was there. He was a driver who would take points off of and punish the big teams when they made a mistake or got the strategy wrong and it was exciting to watch.
    But as the smaller teams get squeezed and forced to rely on pay drivers places for drivers like Kamui, Grosjean, Perez etc. will continue to disappear and the sport will surely be worse off without them.

    1. One of the most sensible comments here. I agree with everything you said.

    2. I totally agree with this.

    3. This really is bang on. I’ll give you a nod for COTD there!

    4. @yossarian brilliant comment, honestly fantastic.

  7. F1 is the poorer place wihtout KK. F1’s loss is SF’s gain. will watch every race of theirs for the first time ever

  8. I’m going to miss Kamui. He wasn’t always the centre of attention in the sport but when he was, he was either putting his Sauber in the top 3 in qualifying, flying through the air or making outrageous overtakes.
    Driving for no pay at Caterham showed just how much of a nice guy he was. Hopefully he can find some overdue success in Super Formula!

  9. Personally, my favourite moment was at the Canadian GP (can’t remember which year) when he nearly planted it in the wall of champions, but unlike normal people he just kept his foot in it and left two big black marks down the straight… Sums him up really, it was everything or nothing

    1. Exactly. He was great for F1. The show was hurt dramatically when he lost his place in the mid field.

      And he was a genuinely nice guy. Still, gonna keep following him.

      1. I can’t help but wonder what would/could have happened if yota stayed in the game and made a great car or he switched to Force India. That would have been tremendous.

        1. @beejis60 Exactly, they had built a car for 2010 and it never got raced…

    2. I cant remember if it was 2010 or 2011. KK was passing people round the Hair Pin at Suzuka from way behind!…classic Banzai!

      Will miss KK. People are quick to suggest that Perez eclipsed KK in 2012 with 2 more podiums. People tend to forget very quickly that the only reason Perez made it to the podium was purely due to circumstance. In the races that he got to the podium ( at least 2 of the 3), he started outside the top 10 due to poor qualifying, but made his way through the field due to strategy. Perez could nurse the tyres, but that didnt make him a better racer, and certainly nowhere near as entertaining!

  10. A man whose career was destroyed by factors beyond his control. Those factors being the introduction of DRS and Pirelli tires.

  11. Kobayashi vs Button at Abu Dhabi was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire 2009 season.

    I’ll miss him, he was inconsistent and often made silly mistakes, but had his moments of brilliance. F1 needs more midfield drivers like him.

  12. I really like the guy and i will miss him

  13. Mid field driver because he was in mid field cars, sadly it’s doubtful we’ll never know how good he really is.
    Should have been driving a Ferrari, damn shame he lunched that car at some silly demo on a rainy Moscow street.
    F1 needs chargers with the Senna/Mansell/Hamilton/Lauda genes and KK has them in spades.
    Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of this thoroughly likeable entertaining chap.
    As you may have gathered I’m a bit of a fan :)

  14. @Thanks for the hard work Keith, excellent reading and viewing.

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