Formula E has proven an alluring destination for former F1 drivers, and now one more has joined their ranks. That driver is Kamui Kobayashi – a former GP2 champ, outright winner of the 6 Hours of Fuji in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, and the last Japanese so far to compete in Formula 1.
Despite his accomplishments in other racing disciplines (including a second-place finish at Le Mans with Toyota in 2016), Kobayashi struggled in his four-plus years on the F1 grid, scoring a solitary podium finish for Sauber (in his country’s GP) in 2012.
His latest challenge will see him take the wheel for the MS&AD Andretti team in the forthcoming Hong Kong ePrix at the beginning of next month – but he’ll have to do so without the benefit of any testing beforehand. “[It won’t be] an easy thing to be honest, but the team has been giving me all the support,” said Kobayashi upon the announcement.
Michael Andretti provides a glimpse at one of the possible driving forces behind the decision to put Kobayashi in the cockpit. “To partner one of the largest companies in Japan, MS&AD Insurance, with one of the most popular Japanese racing drivers, will be exciting to see,” said Andretti. “He has shown what he can do in both Formula One and WEC, making Formula E a perfect next step.”
He’ll be the third Japanese driver to compete in the series, following Takuma Sato and Sakon Yamamoto, and join a long list of former F1 drivers to try their hand at the electric racing series.
So far the Formula E championship has only been won, in fact, by past F1 drivers: Nelson Piquet in season 1, Sebastien Buemi in season 2, and Lucas di Grassi in season 3. If Kobayashi proves his worth, he could end up proving the next.