Born in the town of Amagasaki, Japan, on 13 September 1986, Kamui Kobayashi was nine years old when he started his motor-sport career as so many drivers have – by competing in kart racing. His determination, and no small degree of skill, won him third place in the 1996 SL Takarazuka Tournament Cadet Class series. Over the next seven years, Kobayashi won the series twice, in addition to winning two other karting titles.
Kobayashi raced in the Esso Formula Toyota championship for the first time in 2002, following up with a second season in 2003 and finishing the season in second place. In 2004 he competed in the Italian Formula Renault series, winning two races and ending the season seventh in the standing. In 2005 he walked off with both the Italian and Eurocup Formula Renault Championship titles. Moving on to Formula Three in 2006, Kobayashi claimed three podiums in his first season. The following year, he claimed one victory in his second season of Formula Three racing, and tested for Toyota GP2.
Competing in the GP2 Asia series in 2008, Kobayashi won the second race of the season at the Circuit de Catalunya, north of Barcelona. However, after only finishing in the points once again that season, he was placed sixteenth in the final tally. In the GP2 Asia winter series of 2008/2009, Kobayashi finished sixteenth again.
Kobayashi’s opportunity came to move up to F1 racing, when he replaced Franck Montagny as the test and reserve driver for Toyota during 2008 and 2009. An opportunity arose for Kobayashi to race in the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix when Timo Glock took ill, recovering in time to participate in free practice and to qualify, but crashed in the practice session. However, as Kobayashi had not met the criteria of driving in at least one session on the Saturday, he was not eligible to participate. With Glock battling to recover from an injury sustained in his accident, Kobayashi made his F1 debut at the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, qualifying eleventh and finishing in tenth place, later promoted to ninth. He raced again in Glock’s place at the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, qualifying twelfth and finishing sixth, notching up his first World Championship points.
It was widely anticipated that Kobayashi would be signed on with Toyota for the 2010 F1 season, however Toyota withdrew from Formula One racing leaving him with an uncertain future. In December of 2009 it was announced that Kobayashi would be driving for the newly re-launched Sauber team, with McLaren’s former test driver Pedro de la Rosa as his team-mate.