Kamui Kobayashi will replace France's Franck Montagny as Toyota's test and reserve driver next season, the Formula One team said on Friday. After his final test in Barcelona, Montagny said farewell to the Toyota team.
The 21-year-old Japanese has been backed by Toyota since 2001 as part of the company’s young driver programme. Kobayashi is a product of Toyota’s TDP scheme which is aimed at honing young drivers.
"He (Kobayashi) tested the car last winter and showed he had the potential to drive in Formula One in the future," said Toyota head honcho Tadashi Yamashina.
The Japanese auto giant is still seeking a replacement for Germany's Ralf Schumacher, who left at the end of the season last month, alongside Italian Jarno Trulli in their 2008 race lineup.
Kobayashi has competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series for the past two seasons, finishing fourth in the championship in 2007 with one race win, and had his first F1 test with Toyota last December, divulged iTV.
“The TDP scheme has been very supportive of me during my career and I am very grateful for all that support,” he said. “This is a great challenge for me and I am very excited about becoming a Formula 1 driver. Since the start of my career I have dreamed of reaching Formula 1 and to have the chance to join Panasonic Toyota Racing as third driver is a fantastic opportunity for me.”
“My first tests for the team last winter went well but I still have things to learn about Formula 1 and it will be a great experience for me to test more regularly for the team. The role of third driver is very important as I will be helping a lot with the development of the car throughout the year. I am sure I will learn a lot about Formula 1 cars and hopefully this will help me in my future career but for now I am focused on helping the team move forward,” the Japanese driver concluded.
“I am very pleased to welcome Kamui to the team. He tested the car last winter and showed he had the potential to drive in Formula 1 in the future. Now, after another season gaining experience in Formula 3, we believe he is ready for the challenge of Formula 1. It is also very gratifying to see the TDP scheme delivering results and helping a promising young driver to reach Formula 1,” added Yamashina.
Additionally, another Japanese driver to have emerged from the TDP, Kazuki Nakajima, and he will be racing for Toyota-powered Williams in 2008.