There was hardly anyone in the Formula 1 paddock in Suzuka who could resist smiling at the sight of an elated Kamui Kobayashi after his third place finish in front of a home crowd at the Japanese Grand Prix. A day later, the Sauber driver talks about the first podium in his Formula 1 career.
Kamui, has Sunday’s achievement sunk in yet?
To be honest I don’t really know because I’ve been busy since the race was over. Last night there was a party with fans in Suzuka, and this morning I went straight back to Suzuka circuit because there was another event organised with more than 5,000 fans. In every respect it was a very intense weekend. I had a lot of confidence before we came to Japan, but then on Friday we were slower than expected, which was a bit worrying. Then qualifying went well, except I lost time due to a yellow flag, and the race was close until the very end.
What does the first podium finish mean for you personally?
I’ve always felt that if you ever want to look back and regard yourself as a Formula 1 driver, you have to have been on the podium at least once. Without such a photo it’s a bit as if you had never been there. So it means a lot to me.
You frequently said in public before the race that you wanted to finish on the podium. That was quite a bold statement. What made you so confident?
Firstly, I had great faith in our team; secondly, I knew we had a fast car; and thirdly, it was clear to me that Suzuka is the perfect track for it. Despite becoming a bit uncertain during Friday, I was very positive again on Saturday and after the formation lap I really had the feeling it would all go well this time. I had a couple of chances earlier in the season but missed them due to bad luck. I knew that the potential was there and this time it all went smoothly.
What were your thoughts and feelings when you crossed the line?
I instantly relaxed when all the pressure came off. Without doubt it was a very important race for me in my career. And I felt: yes, now we will be having more strong races and really go for fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
And how was it being on the podium, facing the huge grandstand with all your fellow countrymen cheering you?
This I cannot put into words. It was a fantastic feeling to see all the people in my home country so emotional and happy. It gave me such a lot and I will never forget that moment. I want to thank the Japanese fans for the great support they gave to Sauber and to myself.