Top 10 F1 Drivers of the Year 2012:
10: Kamui Kobayashi
September 13, 1986
Crash.net F1 Driver of 2011 position:
Looking to bounce back after a lacklustre end to 2011, Kamui Kobayashi started the 2012 F1 season well, taking points in Melbourne to make up for those he had lost to a technical infringement a year earlier. From then on, however, his season was a mixed bag of good and mediocre.
The good was often very good, with fourth in Germany and fifth in Spain only being topped by an emotional maiden podium in front of an adoring home crowd at Suzuka, but Kobayashi also missed the top ten with some regularity. With Sauber hoping to overhaul Mercedes for fifth place in the constructors' championship the end of year misfires from both Kobayashi and team-mate Sergio Perez left the Swiss team short, although the two drivers proved equally matched by their individual totals.
The pair also proved equally matched in qualifying, taking the upper hand on ten occasions apiece, with Kobayashi claiming his first front row start at the Belgian Grand Prix in August. Sadly, the race underlined the sort of luck he and Sauber had come to expect, with an over-exuberant Romain Grosjean triggering a first corner shunt that not just damaged the Japanese driver's car, but also eliminated the team's second entry completely.
Kobayashi got a second chance to run at the front when he qualified fourth fastest for his home grand prix and, after Mark Webber became Grosjean's latest victim, filled a podium spot for almost the entire race. The reception he received from the grandstands was spine-tingling, but ultimately did little to help his prospects for 2013.
Even though an online collection began to realise a decent amount of money, Kobayashi found himself behind Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez on Sauber's wishlist for next season and, when Grosjean was re-signed by Lotus, eventually admitted defeat in his pursuit of a fourth season in the top flight. Ironically, with Perez failing to add to his own points tally in the final six races, some cynics suggested McLaren may have taken the wrong Sauber driver for 2013...