F1 driver Kobayashi relishing free leadership role at Caterham
Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi sits inside a Ferrari 458 Speciale during a press preview in Tokyo on October 8, 2013 - by Toshifumi Kitamura
The upcoming season will be Kobayashi's fifth in Formula One, but he sat out the 2013 campaign after being axed by Sauber after three years at the end of 2012.
The 27-year-old spent the year representing Ferrari in the World Endurance Championships and was even being offered an expanded role in the Italian giants Formula One testing operations for this year.
However, such was Kobayashi's desire to be back competing in F1 that he instead chose to run with the fledgling Caterham without even being paid.
Indeed it is Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes' team that will benefit financially from the deal as Kobayashi also handed over one million pounds ($1.6 million) raised by his fans in sponsorship, whilst Fernandes has also acknowledged the commercial advantages of having Japan's top driver on his side.
For Kobayashi, though, the opportunity to use his experience is an exciting one.
"After a one year break I am very excited to be back in Formula One, but I also had a lot of courage to want this job with this team. I have to say it is a very positive challenge for me.
"In other years I had Pedro (de la Rosa) and Nick (Heidfield) came during the year. Those guys had more experience than me and I just tried to learn from them.
"This time I have experience and I started in Formula One before this team did. I've had to give a lot of information and feedback to the guys. We share a lot of information with each other. It is a new challenge."
The new Caterham CT05 has certainly managed to turn a few heads this week with the team themselves describing it as "the Marmite of the paddock" due to its unconventional looking nose.
From Kobayashi's point of view inside the cockpit, his "pinocchio" car as he describes it, feels good.
"It may not look very good but it feels good, especially because as the driver I cannot see the nose," he says with a wry smile.
Kobayashi got his first outing on track on the fourth a final day of the first session of pre-season testing at Jerez in southern Spain.
Overall, it has not been a good week for the teams with Renault-powered engines.
Double reigning world champions Red Bull have endured a terrible four days as they completed just 21 laps in total, but Kobayashi managed to get more mileage than any of his Renault counterparts as he logged 54 laps.
And he is hoping the data he has generated will lead to a vast improvement from the Renault engines in time for the next testing session in Bahrain in two weeks' time.
"I am not that worried, Renault did the best job for the last couple of years.
"They already mentioned before coming here that they are quite behind in the programme, so they are not surprised by the result.
"For these two weeks they have to work with the data they have and if by the next test everything goes well, then it'll be fine.
"Of course if we had more laps, it would be very helpful for the engineers. At least it is a lot better than Red Bull at the moment because they have had very few laps, so at least we got some medium-long runs in."
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