Posts Tagged ‘belgium’

Twelve months ago Kamui Kobayashi made his Formula 1 debut in the race which saw Jenson Button claim his maiden drivers’ championship.

And while the man from Frome revelled in the victory celebrations, debate started to rumble about the Japanese driver making his debut for Toyota. Both the new world champion and Williams racer, Kazuki Nakajima, were subjected to his aggressive blocking tactics during the race.

Indeed his compatriot ended up out of the race as he clipped the Toyota’s tyre and lost his front wing, sending him flying off the track at turn four.

This incident was the one which made people think that he was too aggressive and broke the unwritten rule of one move to defend a position rather than weave across the track.

Now, having followed Formula 1 for 15 years I’ve seen plenty of Japanese drivers come and go. Ukyo Katayama, Taki Inoue, Takuma Sato and many others come and go, and more than their fair share of crashes too. So when Kobayashi took out his compatriot you can see why I thought that another fast, but overly aggressive Japanese driver was in F1.

Two weeks later though a calmer, more mature Kobayashi climbed into the Toyota in Abu Dhabi and once again raised eyebrows, but for all the right reasons.

Kobayashi is turning into a real star

He was just as racey, just as aggressive as in Brazil but stopped his dangerous defensive driving as Kimi Raikkonen found out on the opening lap and Jenson Button discovered later on when the two battled it out.

Not only that but his hard yet fair overtaking manoeuvre on Button had heads turning as the rookie powered onto a sixth placed finish in only his second Grand Prix, ahead of veteran team-mate Jarno Trulli.

But then came the news that Toyota were pulling out of F1 and Kobayashi, who everyone expected to be in their team for 2010 was left unemployed

Thankfully, Peter Sauber was back after he bought back the team he sold to BMW, and he knows good talent when he sees it.

As the season has gone on, a string of stunning overtakes and hard, aggressive driving has seen Kobayashi being talked again as one of the most exciting prospects in Formula 1. The cheek in Valencia to overtake Fernando Alonso on the very last lap was a bold move and was fantastic to see, as was his last corner move on the unsuspecting Sebastien Buemi; that it’s not over until the chequered flag approach that may have been missing from F1 in recent years.

Last weekend’s drive in his home race at Suzuka was however perhaps the best of the lot so far and included some stunning manoeuvres at the hairpin. Pick of the bunch was a brave move around the outside of Toro Rosso’s Jaimie Alguersuari despite the young Spaniard’s best efforts to ruin his car on the exit.

All of this though has meant for the first time in my F1 history, there is a Japanese driver who I actually enjoy watching. His race craft is very good, he doesn’t crash and he has a car which manages to last a complete race distance.

Over the years many a Japanese driver has come and gone, with various amounts of success.

First was Ukyo Katayama. The Australian broadcaster Clive James was said Katayama impressed so much in races that he was often allowed to leave them early. It was said in jest but out of 95 F1 races between 1992 and 1997, Katayama retired from 63 of them only scored five points, all in the 1994 season for Tyrrell.

As you can see from this video, you can see why he scored so few points.

However during his time in Formula 1 there was another Japanese driver who was far, far worse.

Taki Inoue, somehow, competed in 18 races and the whole of the 1995 season for Footwork retiring in 13 events. Of those 13 retirements, six were due to spins and collisions; meaning he crashed out of one third of Grand Prix he entered. A record surely.

Despite his atrocious driving and the inability to drive in a straight line, he somehow managed to conjure up a drive for the 1996 season, with Minardi. Thankfully though one of his sponsors pulled out and Giancarlo Fisichella took his place, much to the relief of Minardi’s mechanics no doubt.

And that was it for a few years apart from some unspectacular,  and slow, performances of Shinji Nakano for Prost and Minardi plus Toranosuke Takagi for Tyrrell until 2002 when Takuma Sato turned up, mainly backwards, in the yellow of Jordan.

Admittedly the biggest accident of Sato’s career was not his fault but he earned himself a reputation with unnecessary accidents in Monaco, Italy, Spain, America, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, France, Canada, Bahrain, Belgium…

It’s a shame that by the time he had calmed down as a driver and could pull of moves like the one he did on Alonso in Canada when driving for Super Aguri, he was in a team who were struggling for cash and alas when the team disappeared, so did Sato.

So it’s refreshing to finally see a Japanese driver who is fast, entertaining and above all, skilful. When watching F1 this season I find myself looking forward to the next shot of Kobayashi in anticipation of drama and excitement, something not all drivers can provide on a regular basis.

With Toyota and Honda having pulled out of the sport in the last two years, Kobayashi has found himself as Japan’s sole representative in Formula 1. It’s a role he appears to revel in though and as he goes from strength to strength I sincerely hope he stays for many years to come.

In a sport which is notoriously difficult to overtake in, he’s proved that it can be done and that he is a real talent who can go on to the Japan’s greatest F1 driver, and I think he will.

Image courtesy of bobthemelbournian

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Cast your mind back to the mid to late 1990s in Formula 1. There was a driver who was always trundling around, somewhere near the back of the field, in either a Footwork or a Tyrrell. This is when he managed to qualify. Any ideas? Here’s a picture to help you if you’re not sure.

Still unfamiliar with him? Well his name was Ricardo Rosset. Remember the name now? One of the many extremely average drivers to grace F1 around the turn of the century and today is his 42nd birthday so I thought the best way to celebrate that would be too remind people of his existence in F1.

A man who pulled off amazing feats of driving such as this in his debut season:

A man who played his part in one of the most spectacular crashes in F1 history. Look out for the white Tyrrell getting in on the action on 11 seconds:

And this is perhaps his finest piece of driving:

Rosset was the classic ‘pay driver’ in that he brought plenty of money to the table but was actually rather inept behind the wheel of an F1 car. Whilst commentating on a race weekend once, Murray Walker said there was a debate as to whether or not Rosset was F1 quality. Martin Brundle’s response?

“It’s a fairly short debate.”

After failing to qualify for five out of the 16 rounds in the 1998 championship, Rosset’s mechanics were known for swapping round the ‘t’ and ‘r’ in his name on the side of his car. Harsh as he didn’t drive like one, he just wasn’t very good. There’s a difference between being a rude driver and an inept one.

But what’s happened to him since I hear you ask.

Well after losing his Formula 1 seat at the end of 1998 he turned his back on motor racing and focused on his sportswear company. In 2008 he made a return to motor racing in the Brazilian GT3 Championship in a Ford GT from GT Racing, alongside film maker Walter Salles.

The pair were second after round one before claiming victory in the following race and at Interlagos where they also took pole for both races. Round three saw the them retire in race one before winning the second race ahead of Ford rivals Xandy Negrao and Andreas Mattheis. After three rounds there were six points of the top of the standings with 38, compared to Negrao and Mattheis’ 44.

By the time round five came along the Fords were dominating the championship and the Rosset/Salles combination took victory in race one at Rio de Janeiro, helping them to take over at the head of the championship, before a second place in race two. This left on 62 points, one ahead of Negrao and Mattheis.

The final round of the season, back at Interlagos saw Rosset and Salles win race one but it would not be enough for them to win the championship which went to the Matech Ford team drivers who finished 16 points ahead. However this showed a reasonably successful return to racing for the F1 reject.

Buoyed by this success, success in fact he hadn’t experienced since 1995 (yes he very nearly one a championship!), Rosset decided to buy a Footwork FA17, the car in which he made his début in Melbourne 1996, to race in one of the classic grand prix series.

However despite his success in Brazil, he’ll be remembered across the world for driving like this.