Sauber Celebrate: Kamui Kobayashi Returns To the Battleground
Sauber's rising star Kamui Kobayashi was arguably the driver of the day in Valencia.
He jumped upon a opportunistic safety car period and took hold of an unexpected third position. He held this place throughout most of the Grand Prix.
What highlighted his potential in this position was the continuing abundance of pace that he portrayed on his first set of tyres. These tyres lasted him almost 50 laps, compared to the rest of the field who had already pitted long before, with many stopping for a fresh set in the aftermath of the Webber-Kovalainen collision.
Kobayashi set himself up with a credible points finish, by emerging from his one and only pit stop in ninth.
This was not the end, however. Two laps from the end, he put a move on Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari and that took some balls.
And he didn't stop there, as into the final corner, he seized upon an overly cautious Sebastien Buemi and rallied past the Toro Rosso driver to steal seventh place.
We were in awe once again of the young and inspiring driver. Such a view had been hard to recollect through much of this season.
We are not alien to the Japanese driver's risk-free attitude. His die-hard spontaneity won him a multitude of fans as he portrayed genuine raw pace in his races at Toyota last year.
Many were despondent, therefore, at his and his teammate Pedro De la Rosa's lack of potential at the returning Sauber team.
Both drivers looked deflated and unable to perform. We could not distinguish the talent from the cars, and it appeared as though this was because the Ferrari-powered machines would not allow it.
Kobayashi must have thought his dreams had come crashing down. De la Rosa must have wondered why a comeback after years as a test driver had seemed such a good idea at the time.
Now though, Kobayashi will be on the hunt for more. He will look to progress from his second points finish, the first based on his own electric performance.
He may have lucked into an early advantage through the safety car, but it took his masterful talents to keep it there.
Should other teams then be looking at the Japanese driver with intrigue? Could some look to fill their future seats with a potential race winner in future years?
Does Kobayashi have what it takes to succeed in this role?
Of course there are many echoes of a driver like Felipe Massa in his career thus far.
Optimistic and often dangerous moves have proved detrimental on some occasions.
Kamui's failure to finish in any of the first four Grand Prix did his cause little good. Immediately, we were lead to believe that Toyota were the only team able to produce something noteworthy from Kobayashi.
Everywhere he went afterwards could just be a soul-destroying disappointment.
Despite his sensational run in Valencia, what is to stop a similar opening sequence of events at a more able team?
What is to halt Kobayashi from burning out in much the same style and to a degree of which he could not recover?
From now it is all going to centre around growth.
If Kobayashi can keep intact the assurance of pace and the ability to overtake that has won him various fans, then he will be a winner.
Matching this with informed and careful decisions may be the deal breaker, however. We do not want a driver who does more harm than good to the sport. At this moment in time Kobayashi can appear a bit of a loose cannon.
When he is on it, he is a scene of excellence. Yet when the rash mistakes creep, in he appears vulnerable and clumsy.
The rest of this season has the ability to elevate his career even further. Various teams have yet to name their drivers for the 2011 season, and unless Kobayashi is given a reason to stay, Sauber may lose his services.
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