Kobayashi relishing F1 comeback in Melbourne

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Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi is relishing his return to Formula 1 at next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix following a year out of the sport.

The Japanese driver made his debut with Toyota in 2009 before spending three seasons at Sauber. However, despite enjoying a successful 2012 season and reaching the podium at Suzuka, he was dropped in favour of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.

Without an F1 drive, Kobayashi sought refuge in the World Endurance Championship with Ferrari’s AF Corse team, but his return to F1 was confirmed in January by Caterham, where he partners Marcus Ericsson. After a year away, Kobayashi is itching to get going in Australia next weekend.

“We start the season in Melbourne and I’m excited about getting back to racing F1 cars again!” Kobayashi explained. “Last time I raced in Melbourne, I was sixth and while I don’t think that’s a realistic target for us this year, I think the race will be very interesting.

“There could be reliability problems for lots of teams, us as well obviously, but by the end of the tests our reliability was okay, certainly better than a few other teams, and that could be very important on Sunday in Melbourne.”

Kobayashi also expressed how impressed he is by the setup and team at Caterham, and he believes that it could be a breakthrough year for the team as it looks to score points for the first time in F1.

“Obviously for me this is my first race back, and I’m really pleased it’s with Caterham. I guarantee that they are working as hard as anyone else to have a good year in 2014 and I’ve been very impressed with how determined they are to succeed.

“They have a very good base to work from in Leafield, so there’s no reason we can’t have a good year, particularly with what we have planned to improve the car as the season goes on.”

With reliability being a key concern in 2014, it could be that by keeping himself out of trouble, Kobayashi could record Caterham’s first ever top ten finish. That said, his reputation for aggressive driving could scupper those plans, although it will be good to have a firm fan favorite back on the grid.

Social roundup: Racing world largely outraged by Verstappen penalty

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The discussion over Max Verstappen’s post-race five-second time penalty assessed in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, issued when he tried to the inside of Kimi Raikkonen at the Turns 16, 17 and 18 carousel complex at Circuit of The Americas, will roll on far beyond today.

The debate today largely centered over consistency in adjudication and application of the rules, track limits themselves (always a sore subject at COTA given its wide runoff areas) or whether there should be permanent stewards.

In the immediate aftermath, though, Twitter lit up with outrage over Verstappen being assessed a five-second post-race time penalty.

Here’s a mere sampling of the reaction, below.