Former World Champion Alan Jones believes Kamui Kobayashi is the best Japanese driver to have ever competed in grand prix racing. Jones is convinced the 26-year-old deserves to be on the Formula 1 grid next year, and has called on Japanese companies to get behind the driver and lend him the financial support he needs to land a race seat.
Kobayashi was left without a drive for 2013 after Sauber decided to hire Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez to replace him and Mexican Sergio Perez. The Japanese driver, who finished on the podium in his home race at Suzuka, is still seeking a drive, having set up a fund-raising website to raise money from fans.
"Kamui is the best so far from Japan to compete in Formula 1," Jones said. "I have always admired and been supportive of race drivers that show courage, controlled aggression and strong determination, which are the qualities that I see in Kobayashi-san.
"Perhaps now is the right time for corporations in Japan to get behind their Japanese driver to secure his future in the sport. I would like to see him on the podium again, as I am sure Peter Sauber was very happy with his results so far."
OPINION: Rating Japan's F1 drivers
AUTOSPORT F1 editor Edd Straw
Is Alan Jones correct in his assertion that Kamui Kobayashi is Japan's greatest driver in grand prix history? Following his first podium in the Japanese Grand Prix, you can certainly make a strong case for the 26-year-old being the best of the 17 drivers from his country to race in F1. Here's how he stacks up compared to his fellow points-scorers from Japan.
Since joining the grid at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Kobayashi has racked up eight top six finishes, stood on the podium, started from the front row and claimed a fastest lap. This adds up to a Japanese record of 115 points.
Sato's eighth place in the 2004 championship is the best by a Japanese driver and were points to have been awarded based on the current system, he would have scored a record 137. But he has started 30 more races than Kobayashi.
Best known as a trailblazer as Japan's first full-time F1 driver from 1987-'91, there were moments where Nakajima exceled. He finished in the top six 10 times and claimed Japan's first fastest lap at Adelaide in 1989
Until this year, Suzuki was the only Japanese driver to finish on the podium at home with a non-stop run in the Larrousse Lola-Lamborghini LC90 at Suzuka in 1990. He also claimed a quartet of sixth places in his 64 F1 starts from 1988-1995.
Holds the Japanese record for F1 starts with 94 for Larrousse, Tyrrell and Minardi from 1992-1997. Results were few and far between, although he did bag five points for two fifth places and a sixth for Tyrrell in the first half of 1994.
His dismal second full season with Williams in 2009 belied the flashes of promise he showed the previous year. He scored nine points with a best finish of sixth that year and won the Formula Nippon title in 2012.
Nakano scored two points during his rookie F1 season at Prost in 1997, thanks to sixth places in Canada and Hungary, but was outperformed by teammates Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli. Bowed out of F1 after a point-less season with Minardi in 1998.