Peter Sauber has claimed that Kamui Kobayashi is the first Japanese driver to have made it to F1 without relying on financial backing from sponsors.
Kobayashi secured his first full-time F1 drive with the Sauber team this season after impressive outings for Toyota towards the end of the 2009 season, when he was called into a race seat to replace the injured Timo Glock.
Kobayashi will return with Sauber again for 2011 having been retained to lead the team alongside GP2 graduate Sergio Perez and Sauber insisted he had earned his drive on merit and not because of the financial package he was able to bring with him.
"He is the first Japanese driver who is in an F1 team without supporting the budget," he told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
. "He is in F1 due to his ability to drive."
Kobayashi made his first appearance on a race weekend at Suzuka last year when he took part in Friday practice for Toyota, and he admitted it had been a chance he knew he had to take with both hands.
"Jenson (Button) fought for the championship, but I fought for my life," he said. "I felt like a mountaineer, climbing either to the top or falling into a gaping abyss. There were no other options.
"I got one chance and knew that if I did not use it, my career in F1 could be over just as it began."
Kobayashi will however compete with extra backing in his home race this weekend, with the announcement that Planex Group and MJ Co. Ltd. will be sponsoring the team for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Furthermore, Scalp-D, the manufacturer of hair care products, is expanding its presence on the C29 race cars.