To be honest, this is an award that could have gone to either Felipe Massa or Kamui Kobayashi. Both drivers have uncertain futures, but both produced great drives during the race to provide their best finishes of the season.
It’s been a while since Felipe Massa troubled the thoughts of Badger’s Top Dog column. In an interesting, although not stellar, race in Japan his was a fantastic drive to second place, to achieve his first podium in thirty three races. That it didn’t really include any fancy overtaking is no surprise – that’s never really been his style – but to come from tenth on the grid to finish where he did implies brilliant pace and no little commitment.
To say things haven’t gone to plan for him since his return from injury at the start of the 2010 season would be an understatement. Sidelined at Ferrari, slow on the track and looking like he’d lost the edge that every F1 driver needs, his career has been in a rapid and seemingly terminal decline. However, in the last few races, and whisper it quietly lest it blow away on the wind, it looks as though he might have gained something that’s allowed him to get back at the sharp end. There’s nothing like impending unemployment to sharpen the mind, is there?
However, as great as Massa’s drive was, today’s Top Dog award has to go to Kamui Kobayashi. He may not have gained any places during the race, but the most important thing was that he didn’t lose any either. To drive to his first ever podium with his continuing employment at Sauber under question and the weight of a nation upon his shoulders is tremendously impressive. The crowd chanting his name at the end was truly extraordinary. In other fun stats, this was the first time since 1990 that a Japanese driver finished on the podium in Japan.
Let’s all hope that what was undoubtedly one of his finest moments in an F1 car, if not his finest, isn’t also one of his last.
Enjoy it Kamui, you’re this race’s Top Dog.