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Robert Kubica - Poland's racing certainty 19 Jan 2007

Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Interlagos, Brazil, 20 October 2006

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica knows only too well there is no such thing as an easy route into Formula One racing. As he prepares to embark on his first full season, Kubica talks about just what it took to become Poland’s first Grand Prix star…

Q: Who gave you the most help at the start of your career?
Robert Kubica:
That would be my parents, no question. I’m extremely proud of them and really grateful for everything they’ve done for me. When you’re so young, it’s difficult to make a lot of decisions and you’re really dependent on your parents. My mum and dad have always accepted and supported what I’ve wanted to do. Between the ages of eight and ten I practised very hard. There were no kart tracks in Krakow and we had to travel 150 kilometres every time to go racing. And that took up a lot of my father’s time and money.

Q: How did it feel moving to Italy as a 13 year-old?
I’d run out of competition in Poland, and at the time the Italian championship was the toughest kart series out there. We wanted to find out if I could hold my own against the best drivers in Europe. A few other Polish drivers had tried to do the same thing in previous years, but never made it into the final race for the top 20. That was our aim. But then I took pole position and finished second in two races first time out. For both me and my father, that provided important confirmation that we had done the right thing. Things were going well, but there were also very bad times - when my dad ran out of money. Although we were reasonably well off by Polish standards in 1998, that didn’t mean a great deal outside the country. Today, average earnings in Germany and Italy are still six or seven times higher than in Poland. We’d got to the point where we only had enough money for one more race in the European Championship, then I got lucky with the contract from CRG. To start with I lived with the owner’s family, but then moved into a place of my own when I was 16. My parents couldn’t afford to come over very often and in a situation like that you have to learn a lot about life very quickly. You grow up fast.

Q: What’s the worst experience you’ve endured in your career so far?
That would definitely be when I got injured as a passenger in that car accident. My arm was so badly damaged that everybody thought I’d be out for six months. That was later reduced to three months, and in the end it was only a month and ten days later that I was driving - and winning - my first Formula Three race. I just wanted to get back into a car as quickly as possible. The crash happened in Poland, but I was taken to Italy for treatment. I’m very grateful to the doctors there, they looked after me amazingly well.

Q: And what has been the best moment?
That was probably that Formula Three race at the Norisring after the accident. I only had about 70 percent use of the injured arm and needed the other one to change gear with. There aren’t any fast corners at the Norisring, which helped of course. But that win in the Euro Series was just fantastic for me.

Q: Was it your aim to make it into Formula One racing?
Formula One was certainly a dream, but I hadn’t really identified it as a goal. My aims were rather more realistic. You need a certain amount of luck to get into F1, especially if you don’t have any money. And I was given my big break when Mario Theissen called and offered me the job as test driver in December 2005.

Q: You are 1.84 metres tall - does that cause problems in the car?
The cockpit of the F1.06 was designed for smaller drivers and that didn’t make things easy for me. I would like to have been a few centimetres shorter. Before I could sign the contract, Mario Theissen and Peter Sauber asked me to get into the car so that they could see if it would work. Of course, I did everything I could to squeeze myself in and told them it was a great fit - you just don’t throw away a chance like that. Shortly before the end of the 2006 season I was given a new chassis with a somewhat larger cockpit.

Q: Where would you say your main strengths lie?
In my head. I’m pretty tough mentally. I’ve learnt that at least 50 percent of success is achieved in your head and through your mental preparation.