‘To race here really is something special’: Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi on grasping his chance to compete at the Hong Kong E-Prix
The Japanese former Formula One driver will compete for the MS&AD Andretti team this weekend
While the teams and drivers gathered for the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix are all heads-down as they prepare for the double-header – and the season ahead – Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi is simply happy to come along for the ride.
The 31-year-old Formula One veteran has been a late call up for the MS&AD Andretti Formula E outfit and has signed on just for the weekend, taking an opportunity he calls an “honour” in between his regular gigs with the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Super Formula Championship back home in Japan.
“Any opportunity to race is a good opportunity,” Kobayashi explained as he made himself known to his team down in the Central Harbourfront pits.
“I haven’t tested in the car so it’s not going to be easy but it’s too good an opportunity to miss. Now I just have to get in the car and do my best.”
Kobayashi will race for Andretti as the only Asian driver on the grid, alongside Antonio Felix da Costa, and sitting in for the absent Englishman Tom Blomqvist, and he said he was intrigued by the set-up of the car he will race across the weekend, and by the schedule.
While many drivers have already taken the opportunity to take a sneaky walk around the harbourfront track, they don’t get their first official look at what’s ahead until a supervised Friday evening stroll, and they don’t actually get behind the wheel and down to business until 7am on Saturday morning.
“It’s a good wake up call, isn’t it,” said Kobayashi. “I’ve had a day in the simulator so at least I have had something. But we drivers like a challenge.”
Such is the nature of Formula E, held on street tracks in the heart of some of the world’s most hectic metropolises, that use of the circuits is limited. For Kobayashi, though, that’s all part of the thrill ahead.
“It looks really narrow to me,” said Kobayashi. “But it looks like a good track to race and it will test all of us. The conditions are the same for everyone. We have a few tracks back home like this but not as narrow so we’ll see how I go. I have been to Hong Kong many times before but to race here really is something special with the city there behind us. I feel lucky to be here.”
The call from Andretti apparently came out of the blue – but Kobayashi said that nature of the sport means that teams are constantly keeping tabs on drivers, no matter which series they may be driving in. So if a chance comes, he’s ready to grab it.
“I race across different categories so when you do that people notice you,” said Kobayashi. “If you get an offer, why not. It comes down to asking yourself what you can do. How good can you be? Formula E is a new challenge for drivers and everyone wants to see what this series is all about. So it’s exciting, the championship is racing at a high level and each year is getting bigger and bigger. So I am proud to be here and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
The Andretti outfit struggled into seventh place in the championship last season and while Kobayashi said that though his time with the team might be short, he was hoping to set them on the right track for the season ahead, across two opening races that can really set the tone for Formula E’s season four.
“I have been around for quite a while now so I know I have a lot to offer the team,” said Kobayashi. “It’s just one race – but I am hoping it will be a big one for me and the team. Then we can start to consider what I can do in the future.”