Q&A with Kamui Kobayashi after F1 debut
How much notice did you have that you would be racing in Brazil? Were you well prepared?
I was told almost a week before while I was in Japan for a fan event so I had a few days to prepare. That was more time than I had in Suzuka when I had less than two hours to get ready for practice! I felt quite well prepared when practice started because I had worked hard with the team to in the previous few days to confirm everything. And the experience at Suzuka was quite helpful as well because at least I had the chance to get a feel for the car as it is now, because it has changed and improved a lot since my last tests with it in February.
Were you excited or nervous when you heard the news?
I was definitely excited but not really nervous. As a racing driver you have to be confident otherwise you make more mistakes; and I am confident. I knew the weekend would be a big challenge, probably the biggest challenge I have had in motorsport, but there was no reason to be nervous. I really believe that if you are going to be successful in anything, you have to be confident so that's how I approached the weekend.
How did you learn the track?
I had a basic knowledge of the lay-out from playing video games but that doesn't help a lot; basically I was starting from scratch. The first thing I did when I got to Interlagos on Wednesday was to take a scooter around the track for a few laps just to understand more about each corner. Still, it doesn't replace the experience of driving properly around the track so really I was learning the track on Friday. Even though it is a short track, it is a difficult one to learn so I tried different lines and different braking, that kind of thing, to find what was best.
Did the conditions cause a problem?
Ideally I wanted to have plenty of time on a dry track to really understand the tires and push as hard as possible but the rain made that difficult. It would have been easier for me to have had some reference to how the track is in completely dry conditions. Still, our pace in the wet was pretty good.
How would you describe your first Formula 1 qualifying session?
Difficult! I think for all drivers it was hard because there was so much water on the track and the car was aquaplaning lots. A few drivers had accidents which shows how tough it was and I was a little concerned about the conditions; my priority was to just not make a mistake. But on top of that there was a very long delay so we had to keep concentration and really focus for almost three hours. It was tough for everyone but the team made the right choices when conditions were changing so I was on track at the right time and with the right tires.
Were you happy to qualify in 11th?
In the end 11th was a really good result for my first qualifying session in Formula 1 so I was pleased with it. It would have been a perfect result to get into the top 10 but I knew that would be really difficult for my first Grand Prix. Still, I was a little frustrated to miss out on Q3 because I made a small mistake right at the end of Q2 on the intermediates; I was so close to the top 10 and I think I could have made it without that.
How did it feel to sit on the Formula 1 grid for the first time?
It was an amazing feeling because that has been my ambition since I was a little kid. To sit there and have Fernando Alonso just next to me and the world championship leader just behind me on the grid was a bit of a surprise but definitely a good feeling.
How was the race in general?
It was a tough race for a few reasons. It was longer than I am used to so it was physically demanding but also there are lots of new things to experience for me in terms of Formula 1; race pit stops, the way the car behavior evolves during the race and managing the two different tire compounds. I can still improve but I learnt a lot in this race.
What about the fight with Jenson Button?
I was trying really hard to keep him behind as I was running in the top six so I knew there was a chance of points. It wasn't easy; he was very fast and I was driving the track in hot weather for the first time. Obviously he was fighting for the championship so I was careful not to cause a big problem but at the same time this race was a huge opportunity for me and I wanted to finish as high as possible so I fought hard for the position. I think it was exciting for the fans and I enjoyed it too.
Were you happy to finish in the top 10?
Overall I am pleased to finish my debut and in the top 10 as well because these were difficult circumstances. However, after the first lap I was in sixth so I had an opportunity to score points; in a way I am a bit disappointed that I didn't do that. But I struggled a bit with the car balance after the first pit stops so I lost a bit of time and that dropped me out of the points. That was probably just a result of my inexperience over a Grand Prix distance; everything was new to me this weekend. In the end I think finishing in the top 10 on my debut was a good result, so I am pretty happy.
How did the team react?
The team were really supportive all weekend and they helped me a lot to adapt to the situation. I think they were happy with the result and with my performance. I had quite an exciting race with a few battles against other drivers so probably that made the race quite interesting for everyone!
Has this given you more of a taste for Formula 1?
I definitely enjoyed the experience and I think I got better and better throughout the weekend. Of course it would be great to race again in Formula 1 but that's not for me to decide. We'll see what happens and I'll be ready for any opportunity.