Japanese GP: Kobayashi eyes podium finish at Suzuka
By Berthold Bouman
Kamui Kobayashi was the surprise of the day during qualifying for his home Grand Prix at Suzuka, a circuit he knows inside-out. The Japanese driver took fourth place with a lap of 1m31.700s, just 0,410 seconds slower than pole sitter Sebastian Vettel.
Kobayashi was happy with the result, and he indeed had every reason to be happy as he left Romain Grosjean, his team mate Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton far behind him. “I am happy because I think I achieved the maximum possible today,” said the Sauber driver.
Like other drivers he did lose time due to the yellow flags after Raikkonen had crashed during the closing stages of qualifying. “On my last lap I lost a bit of time because of the yellow flag when I backed off and switched off the DRS.”
Due to Jenson Button’s penalty, Kobayashi will start from third place on the grid tomorrow. “From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula One in front of my home crowd.
“But first of all I have to manage a good start, and then I should have more luck than in Spa this year where I started from the front row but got involved in an accident.”
Perez, who will move to McLaren next year, qualified in sixth spot but will also move up one place, is also aiming for a podium finish. “My last lap in Q3 wasn’t perfect but still good. I am very happy for the team that we have achieved such a strong qualifying result today.
“They have done a great job because initially on Friday here we were really lacking pace. It was a strong and speedy recovery and I’m confident tomorrow in the race we will be able to fight for another podium,” the Mexican said.
Monisha Kaltenborn was elated with today’s result, “P4 and P6 in qualifying — this is a sensational result! We brought a new aero package to Suzuka, did a lot of work evaluating it yesterday and finally got the reward.”
And she added, “Great compliments to the team and, in particular, to the two drivers who both did a great job. Now our goal is to convert this qualifying result into a great race.”