Kamui Kobayashi, Japan's only confirmed representative on the 2010 Formula 1 entry list, spoke to the press at the unveiling of the new Sauber C30 at Valencia on Sunday. This is what he had to say about his hopes for the new season and his plans to build on his spectacular rookie debut with Toyota at the end of last year.
Q. How does it feel to go into your first full season of Formula 1?
Kamui Kobayashi: This is a really new change for me, because from the beginning of the season we have some tests. We come in to this season having enough time to prepare for it. The last two races [last year] I had no testing, so it was really difficult, but now I have so many tests and we can work with the car from the beginning of the season. Pedro de la Rosa has a lot of experience so I hope we can have some really good races this year.
Q. What is your goal for the season?
KK: I think it is very important that we score points consistently. That is most important for myself and the team as well. It is difficult to say because we have no results yet, but I think we can do it.
Q. After Toyota withdrew last winter, did you think you were going back to work in your father's sushi restaurant?
KK: No not really. Of course, before the last two races I was expecting to maybe go back to Japan, because the results were not so good. But after the last two races, I think everything changed. Now I have a really good opportunity here. I believe that if have good results here I won't have to go back to Japan anymore.
Q. What are the main differences between driving last year in GP2 and this year in F1?
KK: The last season in GP2 it was really... I had good lap times in the tests and I believed I could have good results. Once we were in the season, we were always on the back-foot and never recovered. But now we have the same situation. It is the beginning of the season and we are starting the tests from now. I believe if I have good tests I can have good results in the races as well. I am quite confident.
Q. How much do you know about Pedro?
KK: We know only so much. Last year I met him during the middle of the season, and I know him especially from the GPDA meetings, and, of course, we have had some conversations. But I have not been his teammate long so I don't know him really well. Now we are here together I will get to know him some more.
Q. After such a good start to your career last season, which teams contacted you to offer you a vacancy?
KK: There were some teams, of course, but I don't know if I can tell you! I will ask them and later I will let you know! I don't know everything because I am not the manager, but at the last moment we were thinking it was between Renault and here. And this was the last opportunity, and finally we decided here. But I don't know whether the other one was serious or not, there was some contact, of course, with more teams.
Q. How much support do you still have from Toyota?
KK: I am still in TDP which is a young driver development program with Toyota, but now I am here and signing with BMW Sauber, which is a different team and I'm not really receiving support. It's more like company management with TMG and we are working with BMW Sauber.
Q. What are your aims now that you have your big break in F1?
KK: I will try to be the first Japanese driver to win, this is my ultimate goal. But at the moment it is too far away to think about that and I am just focused on my tests now.
Q. There was a time when Pedro de la Rosa was racing in Formula Nippon (1997). Did you notice him then and how old were you at the time?
KK: I was just beginning in go-karts then. Amazing that it was 13 years ago that I started in karts and now I am in F1. When I started karting I didn't expect to make it to F1, because it seemed really far away. Now I am here and it is a good opportunity and I am teammate with Pedro. This is really awesome because he has a lot of experience and he knows Japan and F1. I did not really follow Formula Nippon at the time because I didn't know racing. I just wanted to drive a car.
Q. Are you still based in Paris and are you planning to move to Switzerland?
KK: At the moment I have a flat in Paris, but I plan to move soon. For the last few years I have driven for a French team and that is why I was living in Paris but now soon I think I will move to somewhere near Sauber.
Q. You have a reputation for being a bit of a rebel in your junior career, will you still be like that now that you are in F1?
KK: Now I am in F1 and it is more professional, so I need to be more focused on it.
Q. Do you anticipate maintaining your aggressive racing style this season? Is that your natural racing style?
KK: It is. I don't think it is something special for me, it's just my style. I will keep like this, of course without crashing. It is my style and I won't change.
Q. Did you ever think you would be racing against Michael Schumacher?
KK: No, not really. Not when I was young. But in the last couple of months I saw some people talking about Schumacher on a website and now it's become really true. It's quite exciting you know, because when I was young he was the World Champion but now we are on the same stage and it is a really good challenge for me.
Q. Was he like an idol from your childhood?
KK: Not really.
Q. Who was?
KK: Nobody, because I didn't know about F1 when I started in karting. I just knew I wanted to drive.