Report: A return to F1 in Kamui Kobayashi’s future?

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Former Toyota and Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi could be making a trip back to Formula One in 2014.

Since departing from Hinwil in 2012, Kobayashi has been driving a Ferrari for AF Corse in the FIA World Endurance Championship and didn’t do badly with four podium finishes this past season. But Autoweek contributor Adam Cooper is now reporting that the Japanese driver may be on his way to Caterham, which has both of its 2014 seats open.

Kobayashi has 60 F1 starts to his credit with a best finish of third in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix (pictured), so he checks off the experience box that Caterham presumably has on its driver wish list.

The quality is always handy to have but it may be even more important for the team should they opt to put GP2’s Marcus Ericsson into its second car over Giedo van der Garde, who improved nicely over the second half of 2013.

Cooper also relays word from sources that Kobayashi is bringing about $6 million in funding, which could also be a factor in his favor after Caterham lost out on a sizable batch of revenue when Marussia claimed 10th in the constructors’ championship.

With Kobayashi now in play, it would appear that Charles Pic’s grip on an F1 drive is less solid now. He told a French newspaper recently that he knew a final choice from Caterham would take time.

“Small teams in particular wait for the decisions of their more competitive rivals,” he said about the situation. “For me, it would be logical to stay at Caterham, but you can never be sure about anything in Formula One.

“The contract with Caterham is my first priority, but there are other options.”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “