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BMW Launch: Q and A with Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica

You can always tell a great deal about a person’s character when they tell you the three things they would take with them to a desert island. Therefore, when Robert Kubica’s answer to this question was a car, tires and fuel, it explained why for the time being motor racing is his life.

From the moment he appeared in a Formula One paddock as the BMW Sauber F1 Team reserve and test driver for the 2006 season, the Pole was an instant success with the media. He was a breath of fresh air. His answers to questions were honest and to the point. He never dodged a difficult question with a rambling answer. If he didn’t want to answer a personal question he just said no, and if it was a thought-provoking one he would think about it and then give an answer that usually brought a smile to the
journalist’s face.

When BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen offered Robert the job, he had never sat in a BMW Sauber F1 Team car. It says a lot for Robert’s reputation and Mario’s ability to spot talent that the deal was done without a test. Some people may have wondered at the wisdom of such a gamble, but it was not for very long as soon it was obvious that Poland had a new superstar on its hands, albeit a reluctant one when the limelight shone on him.

Robert threw himself into the task ahead and the team was more than happy to let its rookie tester take on a very important role. By the end of the 2006 season he had done over 25,000 kilometers of testing and replaced Jacques Villeneuve for the last six races of the year, with the podium in Monza being the high point.

On lap 27 of the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix he was to be involved in one of the most spectacular crashes in recent years, with everyone in the F1 paddock as well as the worldwide television viewers holding their collective breath. His car had clipped the back of the Toyota of Jarno Trulli, reared into the air and somersaulted down the Montreal track, hitting barriers and shedding pieces of bodywork. It seemed impossible that anyone could emerge from the wreck without serious injuries. However, someone was watching over Robert on that day.

The regulations the FIA had brought into force proved that an F1 car can stand massive g-forces and the HANS system made sure that the driver’s head was held firm. Apart from a sprained ankle, he had suffered no injures. In that brief span of time Robert Kubica went from being the only Pole in Formula One to one of the most famous drivers in the sport.

Robert is very tough on himself and admitted his personal year had been a disappointment, partly because he lost points due to mechanical gremlins. However, he is not a person to dwell on what could have been. As he was leaving the Sao Paulo track after the last race of the season, in which he finished fifth, he was already looking to 2008. He couldn’t wait to get back into his car to begin his assault on the new season that, as far as he was concerned, started there and then.

It is well known you are a big fan of rallying and often visit events on your free weekends. Would you like to compete in rallies?
Of course I would like to do some rallying in the future. Maybe for fun, but it is just a question of when the moment is right and at which point in my career this can happen. At the moment I am concentrating a hundred percent on Formula One. Rallying is a very different sport and watching doesn’t have any influence my Formula One career. If I did go rallying there would be two options – a hundred percent like Formula One, so only dedicating myself to rallying, or as a hobby, and this would be in 20 years.

In the early days the Polish media and fans were not that well educated about Formula One and this obviously annoyed you. Are things better now?
I might have been annoyed, but I understood why we had this problem. Before I started in Formula One there was very little interest in the sport, and I am sure this would be the same in any country. Now it is a fact that the knowledge of Formula One in Poland is a lot higher and if you compare the television audiences of a couple of years ago with those of today, there is an incredible increase. Not only am I very happy to see the knowledge increase, but also the number of fans coming to the races, enjoying the sport and crossing their fingers for me. I also think a sign of just how popular this is can be seen in the number of fans who came to see me in Warsaw in the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park.

As the Pit Lane Park was so popular, do you think there will be a Polish Grand Prix one day?
Possibly, but I think it will be at the point when I am no longer driving in Formula One. As we can see with all the new races that are appearing on the calendar, it takes a long time to get everything right for a grand prix, but I do believe that everything is possible.

We never see photographs of you going to social events away from the races. What do you enjoy doing when you are not racing?
I like to stay at home to prepare for the next races and just spend some time in peaceful and quiet conditions. I also like to watch rallies in person or play rally games on my computer. When I am with my friends we also sometimes play poker. I am competitive at this, but like everybody sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.

What do you expect driving an F1 car is going to be like next year with the regulation changes?
For me it is simple: it will more or less be the same as now. We shall all adapt quite easily, as this is our job, and the quickest driver will win. I think all the speculation now will be a bit like the fuss over the change in tires. Some of us like me had to make more changes than others for the characteristics of the Bridgestone tires, but it was no big deal. With the new regulations we will have to be a bit more gentle on the throttle and smoother. I am sure there will be more drivers making mistakes and going off as a result, especially in the rain. In these conditions we will most likely have to have a different approach and I think a race in conditions like we had in Fuji would be impossible.

What advice would you give, not only to young Polish racing drivers, but to any who want to make their way into Formula One?
You need to practice and test a lot. Never give up, push for what you want, as certainly in all careers there will be difficult moments. I think it is also important to look at motor sport in general and realize that Formula One is not the only category where you can enjoy a professional career. You can always have Formula One as your dream, but sometimes aiming a bit lower is no bad thing, because if you only think about being in Formula One you can miss other very good opportunities.

When asked for your sporting hero why did you say the snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan?
After watching him in action I felt he was a great champion. I know there are people who are of the opinion that snooker is not a sport. I disagree as I believe it is a very tough sport. I think what the players do with their cues is incredible, as is the coordination and mental concentration that is needed by them. I expect most drivers would pick someone from motor racing, but for me there are lots of great heroes out there from many different sports.

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