LONDON (Reuters) - Kamui Kobayashi feared his career was leading more to the kitchen of his father’s sushi restaurant than Formula One until Toyota gave him the break that changed everything.
The 23-year-old Japanese driver provided one of the highlights of Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when he finished sixth after earlier passing Brawn’s new world champion Jenson Button.
Standing in for injured German Timo Glock since last month’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Kobayashi scored points in only his second race and beat his experienced Italian team mate Jarno Trulli into the bargain.
Toyota motorsport director John Howett suggested on Sunday night that Kobayashi was now a strong candidate to race for them next year.
The Japanese, a winner in Asian GP2 but unimpressive in the European support series, said he welcomed anything that would keep him on a race track.
Without the two races to show Toyota what he could do, he would probably have had to think about sharpening his kitchen knives.
“I have no budget, no budget,” the Paris-based racer told reporters. “So I cannot drive GP2 next year. I would probably go back to Japan to maybe work with my father in his sushi restaurant.
“It was like that two months ago, seriously. When I was 16 years old I worked there, making sushi.”
Howett praised Kobayashi for his fighting spirit, particularly in battling Button for the second race in a row, but the driver wondered what the fuss was about.
“I don’t need to be worried for me because it is not the Mafia,” he said.
“I have tried to be a Toyota driver for next year but I didn’t know how much I could show before. I just had to do the best at each moment and it seems to have finally worked well,” added Kobayashi.
“Still I have many things to do. I have to improve qualifying and I need time. But the last two weeks have been quite good for me.”
(Additional reporting by Matt Smith in Abu Dhabi)
Editing by Tony Jimenez. To query or comment on this story firstname.lastname@example.org
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