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Kobayashi feels stronger after season as lead driver
Kamui Kobayashi believes his 2011 season as the No.1 driver at Sauber has helped him develop, although he admits it was not an easy year.
Kobayashi burst onto the F1 grid in 2009 with Toyota before his first full season with Sauber in 2010, in which he was praised for his attacking driving style. He made a strong start to 2011 with 25 points in the first seven races but was off the pace in the second half as Sauber struggled to match the development pace of its rivals. He also had the added pressure leading the team, after Sauber replaced F1 veteran Nick Heidfled with rookie Sergio Perez.
"Certainly it wasn't easy for me," he said. "I needed to improve a lot in various areas. Not only in driving, but also in making decisions with the engineers. The fact that we had to deal with the new tyres from Pirelli, which were different in character compared to what we had before, was challenging for me. It was important to find out what was best for the race and how to handle qualifying. There was a big difference in performance between Saturday and Sunday. I think I came to understand many things during this season, and I have got a clearer picture for next year."
Kobayashi scored just five points in the second half of the season but said that could be explained by Sauber's decision to halt development of its off-throttle exhaust blown diffuser, which will be banned next year.
"We had a promising winter testing and a strong start to the season," he added. "In the beginning we had every reason to be happy with our performance. Later, I would say from the British Grand Prix onwards, which was the ninth out of 19 races, we struggled due to the decisions made about the rules and our own technical development.
"We didn't follow the direction of the 'off-throttle exhaust blown diffuser' any further. Instead we worked hard on the direction of development we had decided to go in, but we could not make up for the disadvantage that came from not having the same technology as the other teams. I can be happy that I still scored points in the final two races. This was a good achievement under the circumstances."