Kobayashi to test Ferrari sports car

Kamui Kobayashi looks set to continue his motor racing career in Le Mans-style sports car racing.

After three full seasons in F1, the popular and exciting Japanese lost his Sauber race seat for 2013 and failed to find refuge elsewhere.

Media reports say he will test for the Ferrari-linked AF Corse sports car team in Spain this week.

The reports say Kobayashi, 26, is under consideration for a seat in the FIA’s world endurance championship, driving a Ferrari 458.

With Sauber opting for Telmex-linked Esteban Gutierrez for 2013, Kobayashi attempted to stay in F1 by asking his fans to contribute to his sponsor purse.

Ultimately, corporate Japan failed to back him.

“Yes, it is surprising when such a pleasant person like him cannot get any support from such a motorsport-loving nation like Japan,” Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn told F1’s official website.

“This again should be a sort of warning that we maybe need to change something,” she added.


F1 comeback ‘difficult’ for Kobayashi – journalist

The world of F1 is “obviously” moving on without Kamui Kobayashi, according to experienced Japanese journalist Kunio Shibata.

Kobayashi, who according to 1980 world champion Alan Jones was Japan’s best ever F1 driver, lost his Sauber race seat for 2013.

“Kimi is unseen by the public, and not in the newspapers,” Shibata, who writes for GPX magazine, said.

“Even in December his management firmly believed they would find Kamui a test place in February, but obviously nothing came. The Jerez test took place without him.”

So could the exciting and popular 26-year-old find a place elsewhere in the motor racing world?

“I know nothing about that,” Shibata admitted. “Kamui wanted to put every (effort) behind F1 and was supposedly negotiating with Force India. “But if it had come to something, he would have been here (at Jerez) in the car.

“It worries me,” Shibata said. “The fans fear that once Kamui goes outside formula one, then he will not get back in. I share this concern. The history of grand prix racing has demonstrated repeatedly how difficult it is to make a comeback.”

Many F1 personalities have lamented the ever-growing power of F1 ‘pay drivers’, and the effect it is having on highly rated racers like Kobayashi and the similarly-ousted Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock.

“Compare last year with this year,” former F1 driver Olivier Panis – who now manages the Caterham driver Charles Pic – told f1news.ru. “F1 has lost seven or eight drivers, including a guy who was on the podium very recently. This is a difficult sport, and not everything depends on the driver,” Panis told Russia’s f1news.ru. “It’s sad, but that’s reality.”


Perez: Kobayashi can return to F1 in 2014

Sergio Perez believes his 2012 teammate Kamui Kobayashi can return to formula one next year.

Japanese Kobayashi, who in the same 2012 Sauber scored 60 points last year compared to Mexican Perez’s 66, has acknowledged he will not be on the 2013 grid.

At the same time, Perez was signed to switch to McLaren next year to replace the British team’s most recent champion Lewis Hamilton.

The 22-year-old Mexican kicked off his official duties on Wednesday by speaking to the press at a photo opportunity at McLaren’s Woking headquarters.

“Kamui is a great racer, a nice guy, he does his job well,” Perez is quoted as saying by the Russian website f1news.ru.”I wish he wasn’t left without a contract, but I think he’ll be back in Formula One next season,” he insisted.

“I’m sure that with his speed he will find a good place and we’ll see him again next year.”

Perez also had some words for his countryman Esteban Gutierrez, the 21-year-old rookie who is filling his seat at Sauber.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Esteban,” he said at Woking. “Sauber is a great team in which a driver has the opportunity to demonstrate his potential.”


Kobayashi aims for 2014 F1 return

Kamui Kobayashi has announced he will not be on the F1 grid in 2013.

Dropped by Sauber, the exciting Japanese driver had been raising money via a fans’ website in a bid to secure an alternate race seat for next season. Alan Jones, Australia’s 1980 world champion, publicly backed his campaign.

“Perhaps now is the right time for corporations in Japan to get behind (Kobayashi) to secure his future in the sport,” he said last week. “Kamui is the best so far from Japan to compete in formula one,” added Jones.

But after Lotus late on Monday confirmed that Romain Grosjean is staying put in 2013, 26-year-old Kobayashi acknowledged that he is dropping out of F1 for now.

“I was in the position to bring a budget of eight million euros at least,” he announced on his website. “Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure a seat with a competitive F1 team for 2013.

“I have to admit that it is very sad and I feel sorry for the fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014. I would like to stop the donation for now and while I will save all the money for 2014, I will start to look at what is the best option for 2013 and also 2014.

“My main priority is to secure a competitive F1 seat in 2014. I have no interest in racing in any other categories,” he said.

Kobayashi, likeable and popular also for his exciting wheel-to-wheel style and audacious overtaking, debuted for Toyota late in 2009 before being signed by Sauber full time.


Sauber confirms Gutierrez for 2013 season

Sauber have confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg’s teammate for 2013 will be Esteban Gutierrez, who will replace Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi.

“This has not been an easy decision for us to take,” team boss Monisha Kaltenborn explained, “but we have committed ourselves to a new beginning.”

21-year-old Mexican Gutierrez, who is backed by Sauber’s major sponsor Telmex, also succeeds the similarly Telmex-sponsored Sergio Perez, who has been signed by McLaren.

“We are in no doubt we have a strong driver pairing in place for the 2013 season,” said team boss Monisha Kaltenborn.

Replacing Gutierrez as Sauber’s reserve driver is the impressive Dutchman Robin Frijns, who like Gutierrez is 21.

Referring to Frijns, who won the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year as a rookie, Kaltenborn said: “We will now carefully guide him to Formula One.”


Pirelli names Sutil, Kobayashi as F1 tester candidates

Paul Hembery has named a trio of potential candidates to be F1 tyre supplier Pirelli’s test driver in 2013.

The Briton, who is the head of the Italian marque’s F1 programme, confirmed that Brazilian Lucas di Grassi’s testing contract runs to the end of next year.

“Lucas does a great job for us. After next year his continuation depends on our decision to stay or not in 2013,” Hembery told Brazil’s Totalrace.

Jaime Alguersuari was the other Pirelli tester in 2012, but the former Toro Rosso racer is hoping to return to a race seat next season.

“In addition to Lucas, we are evaluating other names in the market like (Adrian) Sutil and Alguersuari.”

German Sutil, however, clearly has plans to race next year. After a season on the bench in 2012, the former Force India driver has updated his official website with the words ‘Next destination: Australia’. What about Kamui Kobayashi? According to strong rumours, the Japanese could be replaced at Sauber by the Telmex-backed Esteban Gutierrez, or the impressive rookie Dutchman Robin Frijns.

“It’s a possibility,” said Hembery. “We’ll see what happens with him (Kobayashi). I imagine he’s still trying to get a (race) seat, so we’ll wait.”

Hembery had even recently mentioned Michael Schumacher’s name as a possible Pirelli tester.

“I tried in Japan to convince him,” he smiled, “but it didn’t work. I think he wants to go skydiving or something!”


Sauber confirms Hulkenberg, no word on Kobayashi

Sauber on Wednesday confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg is moving from Force India to join the team in 2013.

But, with Sergio Perez heading to McLaren next year, the Swiss team left the future of the Mexican’s current teammate Kamui Kobayashi in doubt. Sauber “will announce its second driver for the 2013 season at a later date,” the Hinwil based team said in a media statement.

As for German Hulkenberg, “We’ve been observing Nico for some time now and his performances have been very persuasive,” team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said. The 25-year-old debuted for Williams in 2010, famously capturing pole in Brazil before being dropped by the famous British team. He returned to F1 as Force India’s reserve last year, stepping up to the race seat in 2012 as Paul di Resta’s teammate.

“I’d like to thank the management at Force India for giving me the chance to return to formula one as a team driver,” Hulkenberg said on Wednesday.

Kobayashi could lose F1 seat over sponsorship

Kamui Kobayashi has admitted he could lose his F1 seat due to a lack of sponsorship.

Sauber is yet to name its 2013 driver lineup, but Japanese Kobayashi was considered likely to stay because his current teammate, Sergio Perez, is heading to McLaren. Kobayashi also boosted his chances with an impressive podium at Suzuka last Sunday. But he admitted in Korea on Thursday: “At the moment I have no sponsors to be here. It’s a very strange feeling.

“Getting a sponsor is very important for the future,” he is quoted by Sapa-AFP news agency.

Kobayashi admitted that having to find sponsorship in order to stay in Formula One is a frustrating task for an established driver.

“Driving and thinking about the car is the driver’s job, but now we have to think about sponsors. It’s not what a driver should have to do,” he said. I’m a little bit surprised, but I will try to stay in Formula One for the next few years.”

The 26-year-old said even his breakthrough podium on home turf in Japan last weekend has not opened the sponsorship floodgates.

“At the moment I have been very busy, but I will need to look (for sponsors),” said Kobayashi. “I really need to think about this. It’s a pity.”


Kovalainen or Alguersuari to replace Kobayashi next season?

According to the latest round of rumours, Kamui Kobayashi could find himself without a race seat at Sauber next season – with Heikki Kovalainen and Jaime Alguersuari emerging as possible replacements for the Japanese F1 driver.

Finland’s Turun Sanomat claims that Peter Sauber regards Kovalainen, who is on the market after three seasons with the 2010 startup Caterham, as a potential Sauber driver. The 30-year-old driver is quoted as saying: “Personally, my goal is to return to the top positions, but I don’t know where. I haven’t talked to anyone.

“It is clear that I want at least to be in the points battle again. I feel comfortable with this team (Caterham), I have established my position, and I think what we have built is in the right direction.

“If the momentum is enough, it makes no sense to throw away all the work. But I am no longer a boy,” he insisted.

Another candidate is Spaniard Alguersuari, the former Toro Rosso driver who this year is testing tyres for Pirelli.

“Next year I will be again racing, 100 per cent,” he is quoted by EFE news agency.

And Marca newspaper also quotes Alguersuari as saying: “There are a lot of possibilities and offers. I am sure that next year, whether or not there are many (driver) movements, I will be in Formula One again.

“Obviously I’m not asking for a car to win, only a team that gives me the ability to be among the top ten consistently. This year, (it would be) teams like Williams, Sauber and Force India. A team with these characteristics,” he said.


Sauber: No time pressure for 2013 driver lineup decision

Peter Sauber has revealed he does not feel rushed to commit to a driving duo for 2013.

With top five teams Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Lotus all now expected to keep their current lineups beyond this season, the Sauber F1 team could in theory boast one of the paddock’s hottest vacancies.

Sergio Perez and his sponsor Telmex look likely to keep their Ferrari ambitions in check for at least another season, but there is real pressure on Kamui Kobayashi, who has failed to match up at the wheel of the sister C31 so far. The Japanese’s latest faux pas was at Silverstone, when he bowled over his pit crew. Blick newspaper reports that one of the mechanics will skip Hockenheim in order to have surgery on his injured thumb.

According to Bild newspaper, chief mechanic Urs Kuratle backed Kobayashi: “He’s a really great guy. It just happens — it was a mistake.”

However, behind the scenes, it is rumoured that Sauber team management have been less than impressed with not only Kobayashi but also Perez at times in 2012. Writing in Blick, Swiss correspondent Roger Benoit said the pair are “both hoping for a new contract, because they are not on the wish lists of other teams.

“And many drivers would run barefoot to Hinwil to drive the C31.”

Regarding the 2013 lineup, Peter Sauber is quoted as saying: “We are not under time pressure.”

Chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn added: “We have failed to score points this season several times and for a variety of reasons. In hindsight it doesn’t help to pine for those points, as now we have to move forward. Plus we’ve got two strong drivers.

“Sergio has been on the podium twice this year, and Kamui has been able to shine with a fourth in qualifying and a fifth in a race. Both have a fastest race lap to their names.

“We have everything it takes to wind up the first half of the season in a positive way.”