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Robert Kubica - the Polish path to Formula One 05 Aug 2006

Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Preparations, Budapest, Hungary, 3 August 2006

In 1997, a young Robert Kubica watched his first Grand Prix race at the Hungaroring. Nine years on, he returns to the track to make his race debut for BMW Sauber. Speculation about Jacques Villeneuve’s withdrawal aside, Kubica’s route to his first Formula One race drive has been an interesting one - not least because he will be the first Polish national to ever compete in a Grand Prix.

Poland, a former eastern-bloc state with little motorsport tradition, is not renowned for producing famous drivers. And yet, aged just four, the young Kubica was already showing leanings towards his future vocation, persuading his parents to buy him his first car - a miniature petrol off-roader that he spotted in a local dealership.

Soon tiring of racing this around bottles in his front yard, Kubica graduated to karting and quickly came to dominate the Polish series. Then in 1997, after winning six domestic titles, the young protege headed to Italy to test his skills on foreign soil. He was promptly signed up by a competitive factory team and a year later became the first non-Italian to win the Italian championship.

Staying in Italy, he graduated to Formula Renault in 2001. The move paid off and in his second season he won four races to finish second overall in the Italian series, as well as taking seventh spot in the Formula Renault Eurocup. But after two years, Kubica was looking for a fresh challenge and in 2003 he won his debut race in the Formula 3 Euro series at the Norisring.

Kubica’s next move towards Formula One racing was to prove his most crucial - signing to race for Spanish team Epsilon Euskadi in the 2005 Renault World Series. After clinching four victories, 11 podiums and three pole positions he was declared champion with three races left to run.

The reward for that achievement was a Formula One test outing with Renault. Last December, Kubica drove the R25 at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, finishing his debut session a very respectable 11th fastest. It certainly impressed BMW Sauber - just weeks later they offered him a contract to be the team’s third driver for 2006.

So far this season Kubica has lived up to his early promise. He has put in consistently fast testing times and on Grand Prix Fridays his name has become a regular feature at the top of the practice order. Not surprisingly then, his race debut in Hungary this weekend is widely anticipated, not least by BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen.

“Robert has made an outstanding impression with the team so far, both in testing and on the Friday of the race weekends,” explained Theissen. “Now we will see how he performs in a Formula One race...”

Poland’s Formula One fans can’t wait to find out.