One more test and then, finally, the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway. Sauber F1 Team driver Kamui Kobayashi looks to the past and the future, and the 24-year old Japanese talks about tires, rules and roles.
Have you yet been able to use all types and compounds of the Pirelli tires?
Kamui Kobayashi: “Yes, I have had everything that has been available so far. This includes wet tires, although I ran them when the conditions were not ideal because the track wasn’t quite wet enough. Normally I would have put intermediates on, but I wanted to learn about the wet tires as well."
What is the most significant difference from the construction of the previous tire?
Kobayashi: “First of all I think Pirelli has done a good job within a short period of time. The outcome are tires which are different in almost every aspect compared to what we have been used to. The grip level is lower, the tires don’t last as long, and once you overdrive them the drop is dramatic and can be five seconds per lap. But these characteristics didn’t occur by accident and they will produce a lot pit stops and exciting races."
For the Bahrain test that was originally scheduled we expected much higher track temperatures than in Barcelona. What difference does this make from a driver’s perspective?
Kobayashi: “Higher track temperatures definitely make a huge difference. So, yes, we will have that lack of experience when arriving in Melbourne. But this is the same for everybody, and we have to prepare ourselves as well as possible by considering how we can react and deal with what happens."
There was much talk about excessive demand for the drivers due to the new systems – KERS and adjustable rear wing. What is your opinion on that?
Kobayashi: “The most important question is how you can improve lap times with the new systems and by how much. I am working to get used to the new systems. It is a driver task and people who are using it well will have an advantage compared to those who are using it less efficiently. It is a matter of concentration, that is true. I can definitely manage that. Regarding all the talk – well, we are race drivers and complaining sometimes can be part of the business."
Do you believe we will really see a lot more overtaking now?
Kobayashi: “At the moment I guess so. Although I don’t believe the KERS will help because almost everybody has it. So it is only the rear wing and I’m not sure if the idea for the races of the one second gap to the car in front will really work."
You have a talent for overtaking. Will that be worth less now?
Kobayashi: “Maybe yes, especially in case it turns out overtaking really becomes much easier for everyone. But this is nothing to worry about because it is part of the rules."
In the meantime you have got to know your new team mate quite well. When you work together how do you feel in your new role as being the more experienced driver?
Kobayashi: “Personally I’m fine with this. I have to use my experience as best I can, and also have to work on the car, which is most important. Compared to a rookie, one season of experience is a lot. I know quite well how it is for Sergio, as it is not easy and he needs time. During testing there is time and this is good. The first race weekends will be tough. Practice is limited and very quickly you have to qualify and race. Every rookie has to deal with that."
Will the team bring new parts for the Sauber C30-Ferrari to Barcelona?
Kobayashi: “Yes, we will have several new parts. It will be our start of the season package and relates to almost all the aero components on the car. I’m very much looking forward to testing them. The final winter test is always something very special with every team’s cars close to what they will be at the first race, and everyone trying to find out where everyone else stands. What we all estimate may still be wrong, but it is exciting!"