23… Kamui Kobayashi
The Championship decided, there was still one race remaining as Abu Dhabi introduced the spectacular Yas Marina to Formula 1. The pressure was off for the top runners, although the circuit wasn’t conducive to exciting racing. Still, one driver at least managed to catch the eye.
Lewis Hamilton had dominated free practice and qualifying and nobody was betting on anyone else winning. However, early on, he struggled to lose the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. The reason soon became clear when he retired shortly after the first stop – a rogue brake pad showing unusual wear to blame. From there, little stood in the way of Vettel of victory.
Meanwhile, despite the Ferrari’s KERS advantage and a heavier fuel load, Kamui Kobayashi in his second Grand Prix had managed to get ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at the start. The importance of that came on lap 18 when Jenson Button pitted, exiting just in front of the one-stopping Japanese driver. He may have been the newly-crowned World Champion but he was unable to keep Kobayashi at bay, making a mistake to allow the young Japanese driver to go around the outside of him at the hairpin.
Kobayashi ran as high as third, eventually finishing sixth having started 12th. To put it in to perspective, his experienced team mate had gone from 6th to 7th. Over his two races, Kobayashi had impressed Toyota’s management enough for him to be seriously considered for a full-time race seat in 2010. Four days later, the company withdrew the team from Formula One…
“At the start I overtook (Kimi) Raikkonen and that was important in the end because it would have been difficult to finish in the top six if I had been behind him during the first stint. When I got past I was confident I had the race pace to fight for the points and my target was to be consistently fast.” - Kamui Kobayashi