Like Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui was one of the few drivers to perform two stops, meaning at least Caterham could at least manage their tyre degradation. Kobayashi was however caught out by McLaren of Kevin Magnussen and Lotus of Romain Grosjean on fresher rubber.
Not one to roll over, Kamui was prodigious in his defence, holding off the pair for more laps than he had right to. Whilst one would’ve expected Kamui to be happy under the circumstances, his competitive nature was still bubbling beneath the surface when this writer and AUTOSPORT’s Edd Straw were the sole journos to congratulate the Japanese driver on his achievement.
With Caterham now in the hands of Colin Kolles, it’s fair to say skepticism is currently holding sway over optimism (although the appointment of former DTM Technical Director Gerhard Unger is a solid arrangement). If Kamui was discouraged in Melbourne, then lord knows what he must be thinking now after turning his back on Ferrari after just one year with AF Corse.
“I have to say they’re [Ferrari] not really happy about my decision,” said Kobayashi. “But I said to Stefano [Domenicali], ‘This is my dream, to be in Formula 1, and I think this is the last chance to be a race driver… I’m here for Formula 1, not for driving GT.”
With Kimi Raikkonnen recently announcing he will retire at the end of 2015, Kobayashi’s decision to leave Maranello’s ancillary motorsport program might seem rash, but then staying out of Formula One seemed just as foolhardy to the Japanese driver.
“If I missed this year, I think it was over and that’s why I tried to take this opportunity” Kobayashi said.
Passed over for a McLaren seat in 2013 with the signing of Sergio Perez, it’s a long shot that Kamui could get a look-in at McLaren given Ron Dennis’s misgivings over Jenson Button’s performances (pre-Silverstone), but with Button already firmly ensconsed within Honda’s bosom, the Brit has a strong case to remain at Woking.
Hulkenberg (like Heidfeld before him) was also overlooked by Martin Whitmarsh for a drive at McLaren (likewise at Ferrari) when he seemed the most rational candidate. Likewise, Grosjean was the only man in the late half of 2013 who could prove a match for Sebastian Vettel. Conflict of interest or not, that Romain is managed by McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier, will be a strong factor in the Frenchman’s ambitions.
While in April, Honda expressed no desire to supply a second team in 2015, rumors at the Spanish Grand Prix was that Sauber forming as a likely candidate as a customer to the Japanese engine giant. Given Honda’s engines are likely to be more affordable than Renault’s power units (ironically the least competitive package), are expensive, you can bet there will be a melee surrounding any potential second supply.
Any team hoping for a Honda bargain would do well to remember Kamui’s superb third place at Suzuka for Sauber in 2012, where he hung on to take the final podium position –ironically ahead of Jenson Button.
Images courtesy of Caterham F1 Team, Octane Photographic and McLaren Mercedes