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Kobayashi: “I think F1 underestimates the WEC”

Former Sauber, Caterham and Toyota Grand Prix racer Kamui Kobayashi believes that people in Formula 1 “underestimate” the strength of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota Racing
Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota Racing
#6 Toyota Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber celebrates his third position on the podium with race winner Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing
Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham CT05 leads Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber C33
Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima, Toyota Racing
Kamui Kobayashi, Team LeMans

Kobayashi, who now races in top-class LMP1 machinery with Toyota, says that the manufacturer effort required to win overall in WEC is higher than some teams spend in F1.

“I think people in F1 underestimate this category, but the amount of effort they put into developing the car is really high, and budget-wise it’s higher than F1 [teams spend] in some cases," Kobayashi told Motorsport.com.

On the subject of whether drivers focus too much on F1, rather than being open to series such as the WEC, Kobayashi believes the huge media focus around Grand Prix racing is the main reason.

“I think we are more open minded, actually,” he said. “I think everybody can ask Fernando [Alonso] what is he looking for after Formula 1? I think he mentioned a couple of times [a] completely different category to think about.

“I think the media is actually focusing on Formula 1. That is the problem. Drivers actually have an open mind.

“Because Nico [Hulkenberg, who won Le Mans with Porsche last year], why did he join LMP1 during his Formula 1 time? Why? Because of his passion to do racing, the passion to do a big race.

“I think [our] mind is opposite. I think the media is only thinking Formula 1 is one of the best. There’s a lot of money of course, there are lots of nice ladies, maybe so, yeah.”

Kobayashi also wants to invite Alonso to try the Super Formula single-seater series in Japan, where he races.

“It’s great, the competition is really high,” he said. “I want to ask Fernando to come and race. He would be surprised how really strong it is.”

Additional reporting by Jamie Klein and Erwin Jaeggi

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