December 28, 2012

Horse 1422 - Don't Lose Kamui

I find it disappointing that Kamui Kobayashi hasn't found a drive in F1 for 2013. Kamui is one of the most exciting drivers I've seen in quite some time.

Kamui's first race in Formula One was in a rain drenched 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix in which he made a Toyota dance in ways that it had never done before. While Lewis Hamilton was busily trying to avoid falling off the track in his McLaren, Kamui was fighting all the way to ninth with a car that didn't deserve to be up so high in the standings.

Over the past few seasons at Sauber, he's had cars fail on him and even been disqualified from a Grand Prix for a rear wing infringement. He's finished three seasons in 12th, which doesn't sound impressive is put into context by the fact that the Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Renault/Lotus teams have all been incredibly reliable. As a driver in what amounts to a second tier team, he's been altogether consistent.
At this year's Japanese GP he became only the third Japanese driver to score a Formula One podium and the difference between him, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg was only 6 points, all of which could have swung on the reliability of their respective cars.

His teammate for 2012 in Sergio Perez, found a drive at McLaren in 2013, replacing the outgoing Hamilton. In contrast although Kamui would have brought €8m in sponsorship, he was let go by Sauber in favour of drivers who bring more money to the table. Although Formula One is the most money driven sport in existence, short term monetary gains over on track success is almost a guaranteed one way ticket to oblivion as Williams F1 can attest to, having fired three World Champions in quick succession in the 1990s and never again reaching those same heights.

I rather had hoped that Ferrari would have picked up Kamui to replace Felipe Massa but I fear that they did not because Kamui would have outshone Fernando Alonso. Kamui is then probably a victim of his own talent. He is too good to sit in a second class seat but also too good to sit alongside someone who thinks that they can win the World Driver's Championship and in a sport where the drivers have egos the size of a central European republic, that counts for a lot.

Because Kamui is out of a drive for 2013, he remains a free agent. If someone like Kelly Racing in the V8Supercars Championship thought about it, they could sign Kamui for a season and watch as his talent and feedback shaped the car beyond anything they dreamed of.
Certainly if I was any team manager in a front line championship in 2013, I'd be looking to pick him up. I just think that that raw talent is too good to waste.

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