As the spotlight shone on front-runners Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo following qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, one of the lesser-known yet most remarkable stories on Saturday in Melbourne came from Kamui Kobayashi and Caterham.
Despite being out of Formula 1 for over a year and managing just a handful of laps during practice due to problems with his car, the Japanese driver managed to make it through to Q2, and even outqualify Force India’s Sergio Perez to finish 15th.
On Friday in Australia, Kobayashi managed just one lap in the three hours of practice sessions as he and teammate Marcus Ericsson were blighted with problems. When the final practice session came around on Saturday, it was imperative that both drivers made it out, but particularly for Ericsson as he may not have been permitted to start the race without some mileage under his belt. Kobayashi completed 19 laps in FP3 and finally appeared to be getting the car to work.
Q1 began under a thick layer of cloud, and it was only a matter of time until rain began to fall over the Albert Park circuit. Therefore, most drivers opted to head out early and post a time. Some struggled in the slippery conditions, with Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado struggling and qualifying on the back row of the grid as a result. Both Marussia drivers also found themselves in the dropzone alongside Ericsson and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, meaning that with five minutes to go, Kobayashi was on the cusp of a great result and making it into Q2.
The expected rain began to fall, meaning that times did not improve and any meaningful running was impossible, handing Kobayashi a berth in Q2. The rain persisted throughout the second session, and the Japanese driver pushed hard to record a best lap time of 1:45.867, putting himself in 15th place on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Given the setbacks that they have faced across the course of the race weekend, it was an incredible performance by Kobayashi and Caterham on Saturday in Australia. The team will now be hoping to carry this good form into the race on Sunday as it goes in search of its first points in Formula 1 once again in 2014.