Kobayashi’s season never recovered from ‘disastrous’ tests
Kamui Kobayashi believes his Super Formula season never recovered from a pre-season testing period he says was a “disaster” for his KCMG team.
The Toyota FIA World Endurance Championship star endured a forgettable return full-time campaign in Japan’s top single-seater series after missing most of the 2021 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, finishing 17th in the points.
A fifth-place finish in April at Suzuka in the wet proved the highlight of a season that featured only two other top 10s, a ninth in the opening weekend at Fuji and 10th place in the final round of the season at Suzuka last month.
Ahead of the season, Kobayashi admitted that the time he had spent away from the Super Formula paddock had hurt his preparation, a point that he reiterated when looking back on his year speaking to Motorsport.com.
But he also admitted that the pre-season tests in Suzuka and Fuji had been a "complete disaster" for him due to various teething issues that prevented his KCMG team working on finding performance gains.
“I think we had a little bit of a lack of communication and experience from the last two years,” Kobayashi said. “I think we missed that momentum.
“The level of the championship is getting higher, and it’s becoming more difficult in terms of putting the car in the window. So I think the missed experience was quite expensive for us, to be honest. We couldn’t recover because we have no testing during the season.
“This year, the pre-season tests were a complete disaster for us, because the car wasn’t right and we never did any proper set-up work. We had some problems with everything, with the brakes, system problems… we didn’t do proper testing.
“You only get 16 hours of pre-season testing, then the season starts. If you are not right with the car after this point, you’re f***ed. There’s nothing you can do, we have no simulator. Honestly, momentum is really important in this championship.”
At the time of his fifth-place finish at Suzuka, Kobayashi said he felt his KCMG team had made a breakthrough, especially as teammate Yuji Kunimoto followed him home on that occasion in sixth (which also turned out to be the 2016 champion’s best result of the year).
However, with the benefit of hindsight, Kobayashi admitted that the result was something of a fluke owing to the weather: “It was [because it was] wet. It was nothing special for us.”
On whether he’ll race again in Super Formula next year, Kobayashi admitted his increasing commitments with the Toyota WEC team, of which he is now also team principal, were taking a toll on his schedule, but suggested he was keen personally to continue.
“It’s not easy [to manage my schedule], but still I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to race, and I’m definitely enjoying driving the car,” he said.
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