Kobayashi: Podium hasn't changed 2013
Japanese admits he still remains unsure about F1 future
By Mike Wise in Yeongam. Last Updated: October 11, 2012 7:25pm
Kamui Kobayashi may have starred in his home race last weekend but the Sauber driver still does not know whether he will be in Formula 1 next season.
Kobayashi claimed his first podium finish at Suzuka after holding off Jenson Button during the final laps of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Delirious scenes followed, with thousands of fans chanting Kobayashi's name as he stood alongside winner Sebastian Vettel and second-placed Felipe Massa.
Less than a week on from that success, however, and Kobayashi remains unsure about future in the sport.
It has been rumoured for some time now that he may be replaced at Sauber, even though they are already losing his team-mate Sergio Perez to McLaren next year.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg is the latest driver to be mentioned in connection with the Swiss team, while the sponsorship they receive from telecoms giant Telmex could also result in GP2 driver Esteban Gutierrez stepping up to replace countryman Perez.
What happens, of course, remains to be seen. But Kobayashi, who has had no backing since leaving Toyota to join Sauber in 2010, admits that he probably needs a similar deal to stay put.
When asked on Thursday whether his third place in Japan had helped, Kobayashi replied: "Not really. I have to think about bringing sponsors to a team. Of course, the best thing would be for a Japanese manufacturer to come back. I'd think that'd be a great thing.
"If a car manufacturer is not moving to Formula 1, it's difficult. Because I think car manufacturers are the biggest thing in Japan - I mean the biggest companies.
"It used to be Panasonic supporting Toyota; once Toyota left they never came back. Car manufacturers are very important in Japan, the biggest companies.
"I think the second biggest companies are electronics in Japan but no manufacturer is moving."
There have been ripples this week concerning a potential return to F1 by Honda, who pulled out at the end of 2008 as a result of the worldwide economic downturn.
But any return would not be for the foreseeable future and Kobayashi is aware that time might not be on his side.
Even so, with the likes of Perez - seen by McLaren as a future World Champion - and race-winning Williams driver Pastor Maldonado well supported by sponsors, Kobayashi is philosophical about his situation.
"I'd be very happy if they come back, but we'll see if I'm here or not," the 26-year-old said.
"This is destiny, no? If it really happened like that...this is Formula 1.
"At the moment I have no sponsors to be here. It's a very strange feeling - to need to find a sponsor, to drive with another team or here. At this moment, of course, I think that the money is very important.
"A top driver in a good team - this is what I want to be in Formula 1. It's what I was dreaming of when I was young. To bring sponsors, I think it's very important for the future maybe but it's not how a driver has to be.
"A driver's job is: 'Think about car'. But now it's complicated with a lot of sponsoring. I think it's not the way a driver has to be."
Kobayashi says he wants to concentrate on the final five races of the current season and is hopeful of another points finish this weekend.
Although he does not expect the Korea International Circuit to suit Sauber's C31 as well as Suzuka did, he thinks that the car's latest updates - which feature a new front wing - have yet to work to their full potential.
"It's not a favourite circuit with our car, but if we manage well I think we have the chance of another podium," Kobayashi added.
"At Suzuka, not everything was working properly with our update. Still we need to look at the data with this package to check what our performance is.
"If we get everything working fine, I think we have the potential with our car. This is what I'm looking for this week and I'll try to focus. I think that if we score points as much as we can it's a good step to fight Mercedes for the constructors."