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Kobayashi first Japanese driver without sponsors - Sauber

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Kamui Kobayashi is the first Japanese driver to have reached Formula One without the heavy backing of sponsors. That is the claim of Peter Sauber, who rescued the rookie's motor racing career after Toyota pulled out of Formula One at the end...

Kamui Kobayashi is the first Japanese driver to have reached Formula One without the heavy backing of sponsors.

That is the claim of Peter Sauber, who rescued the rookie's motor racing career after Toyota pulled out of Formula One at the end of last year.

At the time, Kobayashi - who was supported and groomed for a long time by Toyota - had just impressed the F1 world with a couple of stirring performances whilst replacing injured regular Timo Glock.

The 24-year-old has been retained by Sauber for 2011.

"He is the first Japanese driver who is in an F1 team without supporting the budget," Sauber is quoted by Turun Sanomat newspaper.

"He is in F1 due to his ability to drive," added the Swiss.

Ahead of his first home Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend, Kobayashi recalls standing in for the ill Glock in Friday practice a year ago.

"Jenson (Button) fought for the championship, but I fought for my life," he said.

"I felt like a mountaineer, climbing either to the top or falling into a gaping abyss. There were no other options.

"I got one chance and knew that if I did not use it, my career in F1 could be over just as it began," said Kobayashi.

He confirms he does not fit the usual mould of racing drivers from Japan.

"My family is very far away from anything related to motor sport. My dad has a sushi restaurant and he has never had a car," he said.

"When I became interested in karting when I was 9, I didn't even know Formula One existed," added Kobayashi, who moved to Europe at 17, living in France and Italy.

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