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Thursday, November 22, 2012

What now for Kamui Kobayashi?

There simply hasn't been time with the build-up to the US GP in Austin, the excitement of that race, and the massively quick turnaround to get all of the teams to Brazil, for one man to cover (or even digest) all of the other interesting stories which have been released over the last two weeks.

The unfortunate case of Kamui Kobayashi: Will we see him again after Brazil?
Courtesy: Sauber Motorsport AG
I'm slowly getting around to dealing with those and, before we get all excited tomorrow with Free Practice at the final race of the season I thought I'd deal with the unfortunate case of Kamui Kobayashi.  This due to the statement by Sauber that they would release a statement on their 2013 driver line-up in Brazil.

This racer, and he is a genuine racer, hasn't quite performed up to the standard which he himself might expect this season, but he has put together a few decent results which sees him nestling on 58 points, just 8 behind his team-mate Sergio Pérez who is transferring to McLaren after the Brazilian GP.

Kobayashi celebrates his podium in Japan
Courtesy: Sauber Motorsport AG 
Kamui has scored in 8 races this year and retired from 5 (in Hungary he was classified but had a hydraulics problem) in comparison to Checo who scored in 6 races and retired from 5.

Over the course of the seasons results, on aggregate, they are separated by an average of 0.3 of a place.  Sergio Pérez on an average finishing position of 6.5 and Kamui on 6.8.

It's not a particularly serious difference.

Then you have the reports last week of Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber Team Principal, making the following comments to Press Association Sport:
We're not going to take the last two races and see if he is good or bad, whether it's a plus or a minus point. That's not fair to him. He's been with us three years now and we know him very well. When he came into Formula One we gave him the trust required, without any baggage, to show he is a very talented driver. From that perspective he should know the teams knows him well and trusts him.

When Press Association Sport specifically asked whether Kobayashi required sponsorship to retain his seat, Kaltenborn replied:
before adding:
We didn't even do that at the end of 2010 when, with regards to running the team, we were starting from scratch again. At that time we took him for his pure skills and he brought no sponsor along. We got nothing. So I don't think it's right to now suddenly make it an issue, and there is no pressure on him. It's about what he does on the track.
To me this should indicate to Kamui that his seat is safe, and that he should go out over the weekend with the express aim to beat the Force India's and the Mercedes this weekend secure in the knowledge that his future is assured...

...But that's not true, is it?  I mean: Why would you wait to release the information until after Saturday Qualifying.  Monisha Kaltenborn appears to have said that the statement will be released:
before Brazil, in Brazil or a few hours after the race

Esteban Gutierrez, the other Carlos Slim sponsored Mexican driver is also in Brazil as Sauber's Third Driver.  I have no idea if he's driving on Friday or not.

Esteban Gutierrez may enable Sauber to keep Telmex Sponsorship funds
Courtesy: Sauber Motorsport AG
It will be interesting to see who gets in the car for FP 1 and FP2 on Friday, on Pirelli's 2013 tyres.  My gut feeling is that both Gutierrez and Kobayashi will be in the cars as Checo is leaving the team to join McLaren next year.  This will also serve to further spice up the prospect of a final decision being made this weekend.

Personally I don't feel that Kamui Kobayashi should be let go, With Hulkenberg coming into the team from Force India it would be good for the pitcrews to have someone with experience of the team in one of the cars.  Pairing Hulkenberg and Gutierrez together is far too extreme a move but the Carlos Slim money is very difficult to ignore.

Just putting it all down in print and reading it back gives me the impression that we should see Kamui in next year's Sauber with Esteban Gutierrez guaranteed a seat for 2014.  This would give Kamui another year to find a race seat and, hopefully, guarantee the Mexican funding for 2014.  Remember Sauber are a Swiss Team.