Kamui Kobayashi reveals 2012 fan appeal directly aided F1 return with Caterham
Returning Japanese believes his new team set to move forwards
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 22/01/14 3:28pm
Having established himself as one of the sport's most popular drivers after joining the grid in 2009, both in his native Japan and around the world, there was a relative outcry when the then Sauber driver admitted his hopes of continuing his stay on the grid into 2013 rested on him bringing a budget to a prospective team.
With Kobayashi carrying no direct financial backing at the time, fans of the 27-year-old set up an appeal fund website named 'Kamui Support' and donations swiftly totally nearly £1 million inside its first few weeks in operation.
Although the donations eventually reached 8 million Euro (£6.5m) after Japanese companies joined the appeal to keep the country's only F1 driver on the grid, Kobayashi had to admit defeat in his attempts to gain a seat for 2013 and turned to endurance racing with Ferrari.
However, with the Japanese driver's spell on the F1 sidelines ultimately proving brief after Caterham signed him to provide the experience in their all-new line-up alongside GP2 graduate Marcus Ericsson, Kobayashi confirmed the money raised had now been put to good use.
"I want to give special thanks to all the fans who have made donations to Kamui Support," Kobayashi said at his unveiling.
"Their donations and gestures gave me extra strength to come back fighting and I am very pleased that the money they raised not only helped me but will now go to helping Caterham progress this year.
"Every single one of you who helped with Kamui Support will race with me in 2014 and that makes me very proud."
Although Caterham's line-up was confirmed with only a week to go before the first test of the winter, Kobayashi confirmed that his negotiations had been going for some time.
And despite joining the team that finished bottom of last year Constructors' Championship and are yet to score an F1 point, the Japanese is convinced that he has arrived at Leafield at just the right time.
"We've been talking to Cyril [Abiteboul] and Tony [Fernandes] since last year about driving for the team for 2014 and beyond and throughout all our discussions I've been very impressed with where they want to take the team, and how much investment has been made already to help them achieve their goals," he explained.
"For me, it's a great honour that the team hired me based on the value I bring in racing terms, and the experience I have and I am so happy that I am able to make this announcement today. I will do my very best to lead the team and work as hard as possible to achieve our targets.
"I first visited the factory in Leafield just before Christmas and it's clear how hungry the whole team is to make progress. Last year was a tough season but the new rules this year mean that everyone in F1 is starting again and that means everybody has a chance to improve.
"From what I've seen, Caterham now has everything in place to progress this year and for many seasons to come."
The former Sauber driver's widespread popularity means that Caterham are likely to see a boost in their supporter levels this year and Caterham Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul believes that in addition to his talent on the track, Kobayashi brings a valuable level of experience to Leafield.
"In F1, I'm delighted that we've been able to bring Kamui back," Abiteboul declared.
"He is a very popular driver and it's very good for the whole team we've been able to attract such an exciting driver to join us at a critical point in our development. His pace speaks for itself, and his extensive experience of developing cars, particularly in his years with Toyota, will be incredibly important for us as we tackle one of the most challenging seasons F1 has ever embarked upon."