Yuki Tsunoda became the 18th driver from Japan to race in Formula 1 at the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend. The rookie was also the first Japanese F1 points-scorer since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012 when he finished the race in ninth place.
Kobayashi, who is only one of three Japanese drivers to stand on an F1 podium following his third place at Suzuka in 2012, has revealed when he first met Tsunoda.
“He [Tsunoda] was good! I think before he joined Honda's school he came to Toyota's school and I was teaching him,” said Kobayashi on F1's Beyond the Grid podcast. “He was 14 or 15-years-old, I spoke with him sometimes.
"I spoke with him last month [February 2021]. I think he will be good but just [depends] how he fits and how he has a good match with his car and the team as well.
“It looks like there’s big support from Red Bull and the team but I find that [Pierre] Gasly is doing really well at AlphaTauri. [Tsunoda] has a really tough driver next to him.
"It’s [important] that he matches with the car. He was good in F2 but if you look at F3 he was not very special, so I think he can be good if he matches the car."
Kobayashi raced in F1 for five seasons with three different teams - Toyota, Sauber and Caterham. In recent years, he has been one of Toyota's leading drivers in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 34-year-old has explained what Tsunoda needs if he wants to compete with the best drivers in the sport.
"I think he can [perform] but he needs to have a very good manager," said Kobayashi. "[He needs a manager] for future contracts because for sure, he can have a good result but he can have, maybe, mistakes as well.
"With mistakes, he needs to have someone to explain well to the team. He needs a filter to manage himself.
“If he is still young and he doesn’t have experience in motorsport, he needs to know someone who can help him to manage his mind and his amount of confidence.
"It’s no doubt that with time he’ll be good one day but it’s how he manages his image with the team, his brand in Formula 1. This is most important, I feel."