Kobayashi to race at home as Merhi gets second FP1


Kamui Kobayashi will remain a Caterham F1 driver for his home grand prix in Japan as the uncertainty of the future of the Leafield team was in focus once more on Wednesday.

Rumours surfaced that the team were in trouble and could miss this weekend’s race at Suzuka, but the team are in Japan and are preparing as normal to race, and have stated that all rumours were just that, and were unheralded.

Kobayashi took an excellent podium finish the last time he raced at Suzuka back in 2012 with Sauber, and is delighted to be back racing in front of his adoring fans this year, although a repeat podium is highly unlikely in the Caterham.

“I’m very excited to be back in front of all my Japanese fans and racing at Suzuka; I’ve been waiting for this race for over a year,” said Kobayashi. “The Japanese Grand Prix and Suzuka have always been very special for me: it’s where I experienced my first F1 Free Practice sessions back in 2009 and where I also achieved my first ever Formula 1 podium finish in 2012 and, this year, I am able to come back to Suzuka thanks to the support I received from my fans. This means a lot to me and I would like to thank them all once again.

“I only have positive feelings going into this weekend. Unfortunately, this year I have to admit that I won’t be fighting for a podium, but I will do my best to reward my fans with a strong performance in order to thank them for their enormous support – I look forward to meeting them all there.”

The news that Caterham and Kobayashi are racing this weekend will please the vibrant and cheery Japanese fans, even if his weekend will begin in the second free practice session, with Roberto Merhi running his second FP1 of the year after debuting at Monza earlier this season.

“I’m very happy to be driving in another FP1 session with Caterham F1 Team,” said Merhi. “I want to thank the team for this opportunity – after my first outing a month ago in Italy, I am now looking forward to another 90 minutes in the car. I will not be starting from zero like last time, so I will be able to get up to speed quicker.

“I have never driven in Japan, so I will need to learn the track at the same time as I continue to get used to the car, but it’s a dream come true to be able to drive at such a special track like Suzuka, I just can’t wait for it to be Friday!”

Marcus Ericsson, who had one of his strongest races of the season in Singapore last time out for the team, continues in the second car, and wants to continue the momentum from Singapore around Suzuka. The Swede is happy to be returning to Japan after winning the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 2009.

“I can’t wait to go back to Japan for my first Formula One race,” insisted Ericsson. “It’s a country that brings back very good memories – I won the Japanese Formula Three championship there back in 2009, becoming the first Swede to win this title.

“Suzuka is also one of my favourite Japanese circuits and during my successful Japanese F3 season I managed to be on pole, win the race and set the fastest lap there; it’s a track I know very well. This will be the first time I drive it in a Formula 1 car and I look forward to racing through the high-speed corners. It’s a very demanding and challenging circuit, but that’s what makes it even more fun and one of the best tracks in the world.  

“After a very positive end to the weekend in Singapore where we were able to stay ahead of our main competitors, I’m hoping to continue fighting out on track and make the most out of the weekend ahead in Japan. The good results are making me feel even more confident every time I get in the car; we need to make sure we make the most of the next five races and build on this momentum.”