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Panasonic back to F1 with Sauber? UPDATE
Panasonic backed the Toyota F1 team and its Japanese driver for years
(GMM)  Sauber has refused to comment on speculation the former Toyota title sponsor Panasonic could be set to return to formula one.

It is rumored that officials of the Osaka-based electronics giant met with Sauber chiefs, and the team's impressive Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, at Suzuka last weekend.

The speculation is now being reported in the German-language media, including the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung.

The report said Panasonic's backing would be a "multimillion dollar commitment", which would be further good news for Hinwil based Sauber, whose 2011 driver Sergio Perez is bringing the backing of Mexican telcom Telmex next year. 

Basler Zeitung said Sauber did not deny the Panasonic link, but would not otherwise comment.

Prior to Toyota's withdrawal late last year, Panasonic had signed a new commitment with the Japanese carmaker - where Kobayashi made his 2009 debut - through 2012.

10/12/10 (GMM)  Panasonic could return to formula one in support of Japanese rookie driver Kamui Kobayashi, according to the latest rumor.

After eight years as a major title sponsor, the Osaka-based Panasonic Corporation withdrew from the sport along with Toyota at the end of last season.

But at the time of Toyota's decision, Panasonic had already committed as the Cologne based team's title sponsor until the end of 2012, indicating that the popular multinational electronics brand is still interested in formula one.

According to the rumor, Panasonic officials met with Sauber and Kobayashi after Sunday's Japanese grand prix, where the 24-year-old driver stirred the local crowd with his audacious overtaking moves.

Kobayashi came through the formative racing ranks, including European F3 and GP2, with Panasonic-sponsored Toyota's full backing, culminating in his formula one debut late last season.

Sauber executive Monisha Kaltenborn said after Suzuka that she hoped Kobayashi's form inspired Japan's backing, despite the country's ongoing economic difficulties.

The young driver said at the same event that he was aware of his importance to the future of F1 in Japan.

"That's why I promote the sport," said Kobayashi.  "I'm not looking for sponsors as it's still a tough environment."

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