Date: 8th October 2012 at 9:48am
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For Kamui Kobayashi the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix couldn’t have gone any better for the Sauber driver.

The 26-year-old Japanese driver’s future going into the weekend was unclear to say the very least.

Young team-mate Sergio Perez has signed a deal to move to McLaren, while Kobayashi generally has failed to impress alongside his young Mexican team-mate.

But around the Suzuka circuit the Sauber driver enjoyed his best weekend since making his debut on the same track three years ago and who knows what this result will do to secure his future in Formula One for next season.

On Friday morning it was clear Kamui was in the mood to impress and his time of just 0.692 slower than Jenson Button was quick enough for sixth on the timing sheets.

In FP2, Perez managed to set a time 0.080 faster than Kobayashi, but by Saturday the Japanese driver was on top again and giving the home supporters something to cheer about.

In FP3 the Sauber drivers were fifth and sixth and in qualifying Kobayashi set the fourth fastest time of Q3.

With Jenson Button having a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, that meant that Kobayashi would start his home Grand Prix third on the grid.

?I am happy because I think I achieved the maximum possible today. On my last lap I lost a bit of time because of the yellow flag when I backed off and switched off the DRS. he told formula1.com before adding: From where I am starting I should have a chance to fight for a podium finish, and it would be a dream come true if I could achieve my first podium in Formula One in front of my home crowd. But first of all I have to manage a good start, and then I should have more luck than in Spa this year where I started from the front row but got involved in an accident.?

Well it turned out to be a dream come true, because unlike in Belgium, the Sauber driver avoided all the drama on the first corner.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso spun on the first corner with a rear puncture after a slight tap from the Lotus of Kimi Raikonnen, while Kimi’s Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean was once again involved in a first corner collision crashing into the back of Red Bull’s Mark Webber.

The McLaren of Jenson Button tried his best to ruin the party, with the McLaren having a lot more joy on different rubber compounds in comparison to the Sauber, but in the end there just was not enough laps for Button to seriously challenge for the place.

?It hasn’t sunk in yet, it is hard to believe – I achieved my first podium in Suzuka! It was a fantastic race and we have been working really hard to get to this point since we were lacking pace on Friday. But the Sauber F1 Team did a great job to recover from there. Starting from third obviously helped a lot and also the long run I did on Friday made me very confident for the race. The team has built a great car this year. You can tell this from the podium finishes my team-mate has had. At times I was close to that as well but I never had the luck. It means so much to me that it finally worked out. Maybe from now on things will be easier. I had a very long last stint today and Jenson (Button) changed for fresh tyres later. My rear tyres where really bad in the end and I had a lot of oversteer. But regardless of this I had to push to defend my podium place. Only during the final lap did I allow myself to really think I can keep him behind me, because then the best overtaking opportunity at the end of the straight was over, and then I saw all the fans and the raised hands. It meant a lot to me and I want to thank the Japanese fans.’

Will it be enough to secure his seat for next season with Sauber?

 

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