After just one year away Kamui Kobayashi is back in F1.
The popular Japanese F1 driver and part-time hooligan will race a Caterham in this year’s championship, alongside rookie Marcus Ericson who moves up from GP2. The announcement from an upbeat Caterham team this morning completes the F1 driver line-up for this year, with just one week until the first test of the new V6-turbo powered F1 hybrids.
Kamui’s name was dropped from Sauber’s line up at the end of 2012 to make way for that of rookie Esteban Gutiérrez and his sponsors. Nobody was happy about the decision, except maybe Ferrari who signed Kamui up to race a 458 GT2 in the WEC, along the way also demonstrating a Ferrari F1 car to eager Russian fans. That one didn’t go well.
Kamui raced for Sauber for three seasons, his best result an emotional third place in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, by which time he already knew he would be leaving the team.
Ericson, the first Swedish driver in F1 for over 20 years, becomes 2014′s third rookie, alongside McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat. Ericsson, who is just 23, made a sensational debut in British Formula BMW in 2007, taking seven wins and the title. He’s since raced in Formula Three in Europe and Japan, in the Asia GP2 series and, for the last two years, in GP2 in Europe, taking two wins. He’s the only driver to make the step up from the feeder series this season.
So Caterham will have an all-new line-up next year. Frenchman Charles Pic’s F1 career seems to be at an and end after two seasons, while Giedo van de Garde has secured the reserve seat at Sauber. This morning’s news would also seem to bring to a close Heikki Kovalainen’s F1 career. Having returned to F1 as cover for compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus late last year, the former Caterham (and McLaren) driver was hoping for make a full time return in 2014. No such luck.
So, one week to go until a very tricky first outing for the new V6-engined F1 cars. Nobody is expecting anything but trouble in the countdown to the first GP of the season in Australia, barely 50 days from now…