Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Japanese Formula 1 Drivers Now and Then

But will they just be a fleeting memory now that Honda’s leaving F1 again…


Hello Sports, Err Race Fans, as we’re finally entering the Home stretch over this never ending relay with our latest three Japanese Formula 1 Drivers limbering up for Thar respective High Jumps! With Kamui Kobayashi taking the Gold medal, followed by Kazuki Nakajima the Silver and Yuji Tsunoda claiming Bronze…


Kazuki Nakajima

Birthplace: Okazaki, Japan

DOB: 1/11/85, Age 36


Formula 1

Teams: Williams (2007-2009)

First Race: 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix

Last Race: 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


Sports Cars

Teams: Toyota

First Race: 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans

Three Times 24 Hours of Le Mans Winner(2018-2020)

2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship Champion


Formula 1 Diehards will recognize his last name, since Kazuki is indeed the son of former Formula 1 Driver Satoru Nakajima, whilst I was unaware that Kazuki has a younger brother named Daisuke who was also a racing driver.


Kazuki began racing go Karts in 1996 and won the  ’99 Suzuka Formula ICA Karting Championship before graduating to Single Seaters, as part of the Toyota Young Drivers programme to distinguish himself from his father’s Honda ties.


Having won the Formula Toyota title in his Sophomore season in 2003, Nakajima moved up to the All Japan Formula 3 series the following year and claimed two wins enroute to fifth Overall, then finished Runner-up in ‘05.


Kazuki graduated to the Formula 3 Euroseries for ’06 and finished 7th Overall. The following year he joined the DAMS team in GP2 finishing 5th Overall, along with having been named as one of Williams-Toyota’s two Test Drivers that season.


Nakajima made his  Formula 1 debut at the 2007 Season Finale Brazilian Grand Prix after Alexander Worz had retired from F1. Interestingly, Kazuki’s team-mate was another second generation driver, future F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg.


Nakajima scored all of his formula 1 Points during his first Full season in F1 with a best finish of sixth at the Australian Grand Prix. Followed by two seventh place finishes at Barcelona and Monaco, and two eighth places at Silverstone and Singapore. As ’09 would see him failing to score a single point that season and finding himself out of a ride when Team Willy’ signed Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg for 2010.


Returning to Japan, he spent 2010 as a Formula Nippon Test Driver before winning the title in 2012, and also won the Super Formula Championship in 2014.


Kazuki made his FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Debut for the Factory Toyota Squad at Circuit de la Sarthe in 2012, and scored his first win at that year’s Six Hours of Fuji, while continuing as a Part-time driver the next two years.


For 2015 he became a Fulltime Toyota Werks’ WEC Driver and became Japan’s second ever Sports Car Champion during the 2018-19 season, along with now having scored a Hat Trick of Le Mans 24 Hours victories.


Kamui Kobayashi

Birthplace: Amagasaki, Japan

DOB: 9/13/86, Age 34


Formula 1

Teams: Toyota, Sauber, Caterham (2009-2012, 2014)

First Race: 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix

Last Race: 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


Sports Cars

Teams: AF Corse, Toyota, Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing

First Race: 2013 Six Hours of Silverstone

Two times 24 Hours of Daytona winner (2019-2020)

2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship Champion


Kamui Kobayashi, who I’m a Huge Fan of and prefer calling him “K Squared,” began Karting at Age 9 and won four Karting Championships over the next seven years before graduating to Single Seaters as part of Toyota’s Young Drivers Academy in 2004. Kamui was immediately successful and won two races in that year’s Italian Formula Renault 2.0 series.


The following season, Kobayashi claimed both the Italian and European Renault 2.0 Championships with six wins apiece before graduating to the Formula 3 euroseries where he finished 8th Overall and 1st in the Rookies Championship.


In ’07 Kamui scored his first F3 Euroseries victory en route to 4th Overall in the Championship before moving up to gP2 with DAMS in 2008. Although his form in the main GP2 series was modest with two seasons finishing P16, he did win the 2008-09 GP2 Asia Championship.


Also beginning in ’07, Kobayashi was first nated once of Toyota’s two F1 Test Drivers  before spending the next two seasons as it’s Reserve Driver upon Frank Montagny’s departure. As Kamui made his Formula 1 debut at Suzuka during the first two practice sessions  for the ’09 Japanese Grand Prix.


Kobayashi made his F1 race debut at the following round in Sao Paolo as Timo glock’s substitute, where he drew the ire of eventual ’09 F1 World Champion Jenson button! As it’s funny how other drivers just expect Rookies to Pull Over for them…


And I can still vaguely recall rootin’ for Kamui to finish sixth at the inaugural season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, especially since his Bosom Buddy Bloody Jense’ (Button) was Harrying him for the final Championship point, with Kobayashi finishing P6 and garnering his first Formula 1 poin.


Unfortunately for Kamui, Toyota Quit Formula 1 at the end of 2009, leaving him without a drive, before he was confirmed as part of Sauber’s Drivers lineup alongside Pedro de la Rosa. He scored 32 points en route to 12th Overall, and impressively Murray Walker declared him Japan’s Best F1 Talent to Date! As he got a reputation for not only making daring overtaking maneuvers, but Martin BillyBob’ Brundle called him the “Last of the Late Brakers!”


Kamui ultimately stayed at Sauber for three seasons and scored multiple points, steadily moving towards the sharp end of the grid, beginning with a career best finish of 5th at Monaco. Then P4 in Germany before becoming only the third Japanese Driver to ever stand on the Podium in 2012, when he claimed a fantastic third, jubilantly on Home soil at Suzuka Circuito!


Yet Kobayashi wasn’t retained at Sauber following the 2012 season and instead opted to become a Tintops Driver when joining AF corse in the FIA World endurance Championship’s (WEC) Le Mans GTE Pro category driving a Ferrari 458 Italia “Saloon.”


Kamui returned to Formula 1 for the 2014 season at the beleaguered Caterham team where he grew disillusioned with the team’s direction, along with being replaced for one race presumably due to the need for cash infusion, since Caterham would ultimately Quit F1 at season’s end.

From 2015 onwards, Kamui has focused his attention on being a Werks’ Toyota WEC Sports Car Driver, becoming only Japan’s third ever Sports Car Champion. Along with forays Stateside in the IMSA Championship where he’s won the prestigious rolex 24 twice for Wayne Taylor Racing, along with being part of Jimmie Johnson’s All Star Cast at Action Express Racing in the endurance rounds this season.


Yuki Tsunoda

Birthplace: Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan

DOB: 5/11/00, Age 21


Formula 1

Teams:Scuderia AlphaTauri (2021)

First Race: 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix


Yuki Tsunoda began Karting in 2010 in the Junior category and worked his way up the ladder of Honda’s suzuka Circuit Karting School’s ranks to the Advanced Formula category before graduating to Single Seaters in 2016, making a “One off” Debutante appearance in Formula 4.


Tsunoda with Honda’s backing joined it’s Formula Dream project and contested his first full season of Japan F4 in 2017, winning it’s regional Championship. Then won the Japanese F4 title the following year, scoring seven wins.


Yuki then moved up to the newly created FIA Formula 3 championship in 2019, along with contesting the EuroFormula Open series claiming a win apiece in each Championship and finishing 9th Overall in F3,. He also became a Red Bull Junior Driver due to it’s “tie-up” with Honda.


For 2020, Yuki joined Carlin’s FIA Formula 2 team and claimed third Overall on the strength of 3 wins, 4 Poles and 7 Podium finishes, bested only by Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott, with “Schuey Junior” winning the title.


Tsunoda then tested for Scuderia AlphaTauri at the season ending F1 Young Drivers test at Abu Dhabi and was subsequently confirmed at AlphaTauri as Daniil Kvyat’s replacement for 2021.


Yuki scored points in his Formula 1 debut with Ross Brawn gushing over how great Tsunoda was, before the young charger lashed out prublicly at his team for giving F1 team-mate Pierre Gasley superior equipment! But has managed to score 10 Championship points thru Silverstone…




For the previous two forlorn, former Japanese Formula 1 Drivers Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto, please visit the following No Fenders link.