Kamui Kobayashi will return to his race seat for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix after being benched by Caterham in Belgium.
The Japanese racer returned to Formula 1 at the beginning of the year after a season in sportscars, but following the sale of the team to a Swiss-Arab consortium, his place has been at risk.
For the Belgian Grand Prix, Kobayashi was dropped in favor of three-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, allowing the German to make his F1 debut. It is thought that he was also offered the seat for the race at Monza this weekend, only to turn it down.
The plan originally appears to have been to give 23-year-old Roberto Merhi his F1 debut, but he will only take part in FP1 for Caterham as he has not yet obtained an FIA superlicense required to take part in a race.
As a result, Kobayashi will return to his seat this weekend, but it could be his final race of the season if Merhi manages to secure his superlicense by the time we head to Singapore in two weeks’ time.
“I am working for Caterham F1 Team and I always respect team decisions,” Kobayashi said. “Now I am back in the car and looking forward to going racing again.
“We have worked hard as a team and added performance to the car as well as bringing new updates since I last drove in Hungary before the summer break, so I’m looking forward to feeling the updates on track here in Monza.
“I always enjoy the Italian GP, not only because of its high-speed nature; I also like the Italian fans, they are always very enthusiastic and a very big part of the Italian GP weekend. They create a very special atmosphere.”
Merhi will replace Kobayashi for the first session on Friday at Monza. Marcus Ericsson will continue to run in the #10 car as normal.
Coming off his best Supercross season to date, Enzo Lopes has re-signed with Muc-Off / ClubMX Yamaha and will race for the team in 2024. The deal is for Supercross only.
Lopes debuted in the Supercross series in 2019 on a Suzuki and scored his first top-10 finishes in his last two starts of that season. Showing consistent improvement, he earned six top-10s in eight Main events the following year and finished fifth in the 250 East standings. In 2022, he scored his first top-five at Daytona and finished in the top five in points again.
“I am happy to be returning to ClubMX for another season,” Lopes said in a press release. “It is like family to me there and that is very important. Although I had many options, staying where I am makes the most sense for many reasons. The bikes are great, the people are great, the tracks are amazing, and I am surrounded by people that care about me. We all want to win and together we will get there.”
While he improved his season-best performance by only one position this year, it was nevertheless a breakout season. Lopes barely missed the podium three times in 2023 with fourth-place finishes at San Diego, Seattle, and Denver.
His strong performance him rumored to be speaking with factory teams.
“We could see the growth from Enzo every time he gets on the bike,” said team owner Brandon Haas. “We all knew it was just a matter of time before he would be noticed by everyone, and we are proud of him on many levels. He had some heat race wins and qualified fastest at three events this season. It would be hard not to be noticed going that fast. He had a big decision to make and we are glad he chose to stay with us at ClubMX.”
Lopes had three podium finishes in heat races this year, including a win preceding his fourth-place finish in Denver.