Exclusive Q&A with BMW's Robert Kubica 15 Jun 2006
His name may be little known, but BMW Saubers third driver Robert Kubica is fast becoming one of the most talked about talents in the paddock, thanks to a string of impressive performances in Grand Prix practice sessions. The Polish newcomer may be just 21 and look like the boy next door, but that didnt stop him setting the fastest time last Friday at Silverstone. We caught up with him
Q: Eight Friday drives and a handful of test sessions have suddenly brought you to the attention of the Formula One racings decision makers. Did you in your wildest dreams expect to make such a superb debut in the sport?
A: My performance and the job I have done with the team seem to have been working well so far. I think I am able to help the team a bit, especially on Friday in these free practice sessions. I am able to help the team with the choice of the tyres, the aerodynamics, cooling, set-up and the balance of the car. I am really glad to be here and that I am able to help. I am pretty relaxed about my job and obviously happy to have this opportunity.
Q: BMW Sauber boss Mario Theissen said that you have outperformed the expectations of the team, so you must be very satisfied with your performance. Are there still weaknesses you want to eliminate?
A: I am really happy that Mario Theissen is saying this. It is good the people I work for see that I am doing a good job and are positive. Of course I see a lot of things which we have to improve and I have to improve, especially as this is my first season in Formula One and I have to learn a lot of things. I think at this stage of the season I am okay as regards my performance, my driving and my input to the team. I am still working on all this but with every test and every lap I gain some more experience so am able to learn and understand Formula One.
Q: Bearing in mind Mario Theissens seniority and expertise, have there been discussions about your future with the team?
A: No, there have not been any discussions about my future in the team. I am concentrating on my job for this year which is to be the test and reserve driver and that is all. I maybe be considered for next year, but if not it means that I was not good enough.
Q: BMW Sauber are a team in transition - transforming from a small private concern into a manufacturer-led outfit. You have been there since that process started - what have been the biggest changes over the past few months?
A: Yes of course the BMW Sauber team is like two parts which have to come to one. There are people working in Munich and there are people working in Hinwil, and everybody has to get to know each other better and with such a young team it is obvious we have to improve in some areas. But as a new team we are achieving good results. I think we are going in the right direction and the car is improving all the time. We are testing a lot and at each race we have some developments which make the car quicker. Of course all the teams do this, but I think especially our recent modifications which we introduced at the last test in Barcelona and at Silverstone show a good, positive result.
Q: The downside of being a Friday driver is that your weekend ends before the serious action starts. How do you cope with the frustration of not being out there for qualifying and the race?
A: After 11 years in racing as driver I did a lot of races so I think a years break is not that bad. Of course I would like to race, but I know for a first season in Formula One it is the best opportunity possible to do what I am doing. The third driver at the Grand Prix does a lot of testing, so this gives me a lot of experience and many kilometres in the car from which I can learn. I thought it would be harder to not be in the car when Jacques (Villeneuve) and Nick (Heidfeld) were driving, but I know what my job is this year and I am happy. I am just very glad to be here and I am really happy that BMW Sauber has given me this opportunity.
Q: 21 is a very young age to compete in Formula One racing and not a lot of people knew your name before BMW Sauber signed you. To what do you attribute your sudden rise? You obviously have talent, but then so do many other drivers - and many of them from more lucrative sponsorship markets than Poland. Do you have some sort of career angel?
A: Not a lot of people knew my name before this opportunity. I think those who did knew how I could perform, and who I am. I think if you go and ask the teams I have raced with they were pretty happy working with me. After winning the World Series last year I had many good opportunities to go into GP2 so it means people believed in my performance and believed in me. I dont really have career angel as such. My father struggled a lot. Without my parents I would not be here. They gave me not only money but passion. We started in Poland in the early nineties, which was not easy for Polish people. My father struggled a lot to make it possible for me to drive. This was especially so when we moved to European races in 98 after three seasons of karting in Poland. My father decided to let me drive in Europe. We decided to go to Italy first, but after three races we had no money left. I was then really lucky to get a contract with CRG, the manufacturer of karting chassis and engines. It is one of the biggest in Italy and they offered me a really good job. It was similar to what I am doing now. However, apart from testing all the materials, new chassis, new engines, I was also driving. You could say I gave me to them and they gave me materials and what I needed to race. I was happy to get the right people to work with me. I am really glad that they helped me. I think they are also happy that I am here because it is also part of the success for them that I am here. I am representing the people who supported me and this was not only with money. I have people like Daniel Morelli, my manager, who worked very hard for me to achieve this goal, so I am really happy I have achieved what we were planning and hope we - I say we because I think I represent also these people we will stay longer in Formula One than only this year.
Q: You are currently a low-profile man in a high-profile sport. Is this the look and learn phase for you and we will see a new Robert Kubica once you become more established? After all, Formula One racing is also a huge marketing machine with drivers just one of the commodities being traded
A: I mean, I dont like the big show and all the media circus! We have had bad experiences with Polish journalists, although not of course all of them. Last year they were following my races and I was winning so they created expectation. They also created some really sensational news and often when I was giving interviews they changed my words. The bad thing was the public had the impression of what I was saying and this was completely wrong. I like to be as straightforward as possible. I am not a showman, I am a racing driver, so I want to race. I am here because I have fun racing and I have fun driving a Formula One car. If I was not liking it I would change my job and I think everybody can be sure if I dont enjoy it I will not stay here just because it is Formula One. I am really happy to be here and I think no one will see I will change my personality. I dont see a reason why I should change. I am happy how I am.
Q: When you reflect on your past few months in Formula One racing, what have been the most surprising and challenging elements?
A: I think the time I spent with the team until January when we started testing was a really big challenge. Then for the races on the Fridays it was all new tracks like Bahrain, Malaysia, Melbourne. It was not easy but I managed to do pretty well. I really enjoy working with the team testing. I enjoy it because when the car is improving everybody feels good and I think we are going in the right direction, which is most important. The best thing is to improve and when you see that you get more motivation. When things are not going the right way you get a bit down. F1 is quite big challenge for me and I really like that. I am here, I hope I am doing a good job and this is my challenge for this year. The team gives me lots of days testing so I think this means my feed back is good.