Exclusive interview - BMW's Robert Kubica 31 May 2007
BMW Saubers one-stop strategy in Monaco wasnt ideal, given that the anticipated safety-car periods never materialised. Despite that, Robert Kubica came away satisfied with fifth place, especially as it put him ahead of team mate Nick Heidfeld. Now he is focusing on the next round in Canada, where he predicts the gap to Ferrari and McLaren will become even smaller
Q: BMW Sauber have already scored 30 points in 2007, putting you a clear third in the championship - well ahead of the teams pre-season target of closing the gap on fourth place. Are you surprised at the rate of development?
Robert Kubica: We already knew at the roll-out of the car that it would be quite competitive, though we had no idea of how competitive. The guys in Munich and Hinwil did a fantastic job - obviously a better one than at many other team headquarters. But we still keep on pushing, because in the end we dont want to stop at being the third power - we have the ambition to take it all the way to the top. And I am very proud to be part of that plan.
Q: You were not too happy at the first two rounds, where you experienced more teething problems with the car than your team mate. Things have improved since Bahrain and Monaco proved the team can field two equally competitive cars and bring them home
RK: Both cars are always equally competitive, but we are talking here about very sophisticated technology, so sometimes unpredictable things happen like in my first two races. In Bahrain I had the first incident-free weekend - and the result shows. In Barcelona I was luckier than Nick (Heidfeld) and Monaco showed that both cars can drive into the points. Whatever problems we might have had with the gearbox, it now seems to be solved.
Q: It was you first time in a Formula One car in Monaco. Racing there has produced many famous analogies - riding a bicycle in your bathroom, etc - but how would you describe it?
RK: I was not a complete Monaco virgin as I did the Friday sessions last year - and in 98 was racing a kart, although it was not the complete track that F1 uses - so I knew pretty well what to expect. I like street circuits Ive always performed well there and Monaco is a hell of a task. Of course they are not as safe as purpose-built tracks, but nothing can compare to the atmosphere. And with some more street circuits in the planning I am sure they will find the right balance between safety and urban character.
Q: Does previous track knowledge give you an undeniable advantage in Monaco?
RK: Sure, a profound knowledge of a track always helps. But I was struggling in neither practice nor qualifying, or in the race - and if you look at Hamilton, it was the same in his case. In the end you put your helmet on and try to do your job as best as you can, no matter where.
Q: Monaco is a high-downforce race and obviously the team found a suitable set-up for both cars, but what about the strategy?
RK: With the Paul Ricard tests under our belt and the practice and qualifying sessions running quite smoothly we were confident that points would be within reach - which they were in the end. With the one-stop strategy we were unlucky, but both drivers scored important points.
Q: The unusual requirements of Monaco are followed by Montreal and Indianapolis - two medium- to high-speed tracks. Will the aim be to simply hold position, or close the half-second gap to the two front-running teams?
RK: Montreal and Indianapolis are low-downforce tracks and our 2006 car always performed better on such circuits, so I hope the F1-07 has kept this tendency. At least the two test days at Paul Ricard with the Montreal layout have indicated that. I predict that in Montreal the gap to the McLarens and Ferraris will be closer than in Monaco. But that is crystal ball reading - so lets wait and see.
Q: The team have suspended the use of test and reserve driver Sebastian Vettel in Friday practice for the time being - are you satisfied with this decision? And does it really make a difference?
RK: I am satisfied - and yes it makes a difference. It is always better to do the set-up by yourself than have somebody else doing it for you. But in the end I accept every team decision, in whatever direction the pendulum swings.