Greater Noida: Kamui Kobayashi's future with the Sauber Formula One team will not depend on whatever new sponsorship money he might raise, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said on Friday.
Without saying whether the Japanese would be staying or leaving next season, Kaltenborn reminded reporters at the Indian Grand Prix that the Swiss team was fully aware he had no financial backers when they hired him in 2010.
"If you look back when we took him up, also then people criticised us for that decision and everyone knew that he's not got any sponsorship package at all so nothing's changed on that," she told reporters.
Kobayashi, who took third place at his home Japanese Grand Prix this month, faces an uncertain future with Germany's Nico Hulkenberg tipped to move from Force India while Mexican Esteban Gutierrez looks likely to replace departing compatriot Sergio Perez. Perez, who is moving to McLaren in 2013, has had three podium finishes to Kobayashi's one this season and has scored 16 points more.
Kobayashi told reporters on Thursday that he was looking to raise sponsorship to help him stay in Formula One, a possible sign that he might be looking at other teams, and had been in Tokyo for that purpose before coming to India.
"I think normally top teams have a lot of budget so for them it doesn't matter for drivers," he said. "But for the lesser teams normally they need some budget because it is a different budget system. This is what I have to understand."
Sauber have several Mexican sponsors, with telecoms giant Telmex the most prominent as the backers of both Perez and reserve Gutierrez. Gutierrez replaced Perez in Friday's first free practice in India after Sauber said the race driver was unwell. The reserve made clear afterwards that he was hopeful of racing next year.
"Definitely we are in the process and we are trying to do our best and...I hope that I can achieve what is my goal for next season," he said. Perez felt his compatriot's chances were "really high". "The team likes him and he's a really young driver, a very good driver so it makes sense to put him in the car," he said.