13 March 2014
Australian Grand Prix: Kobayashi realistic ahead of F1 return
Kamui Kobayashi remains upbeat despite heading into the Australian GP unsure of Caterham F1's true potential.
Kamui Kobayashi knows that his Caterham team is likely to face a tough weekend in Australia as it attempts to come to terms with the latest F1 technology.
Although, somewhat ironically, the Leafield operation has been involved in helping fellow Renault engine partner Red Bull with the problems that have engulfed all four teams using the latest turbo V6 from Viry-Chatillon, it remains mired towards the back of the timesheets, with only Lotus further adrift after the final pre-season session in Bahrain.
Despite that, Kobayashi maintained his usual cheery outlook as he met with the media in Melbourne, even trying to convince them that the new CT05 – with the most radical front-end treatment of any of this year's F1 designs – was a pretty car.
“Don't you think?” he asked with a grin. “Some say no, but I think it looks nice...”
The looks of the Caterham have not been its biggest problem, as coaxing pace and reliability from the new-for-2014 power unit has proven difficult for all. While Mercedes users took the testing plaudits, and Ferrari runners slotted in behind, those using the French technology – including four-time reigning world champions RBR – have been looking for light at the end of a long tunnel.
“When I see the total mileage between the manufacturers, it is clear what we are achieving, but this is the world we have,” Kobayashi admitted, “People are working very hard and trying to achieve a new system is always very difficult, so we'll see what they bring us.”
The Japanese favourite, back after an enforced one-year absence, is trying to remain optimistic in the face of adversity, although he stops short of saying he is aiming for points in what could be an unpredictable Australian Grand Prix.
“Recently, we did some tests and made some positive steps,” he pointed out, “If we had a different engine, I don't know how much more we could achieve, but we're happy with what we have. Now we have to go and race - and we'll try hard. I don't think the first race is that important in F1 - not many have won the first race and then won the championship – so we have to see how competitive we are at the end of the season and how we can get stronger during it.
“[Rather than points,] I think we have to focus on how much more we can get from the performance. The driver will always want to go for the maximum, but if we can get one tenth [faster] that is what we have to say is important, that is what we are fighting for.
“This is a most difficult year, and this is a most difficult track, but we hope to do a full race. I'm 100 per cent confident already, but it's still only Thursday, so it's very difficult to say [how the weekend will go]. We will do the maximum, but whether it will be enough, I don't know.”
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