Exclusive Kubica Q&A: I want the best car - with or without KERS 17 Dec 2008
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - or in the case of a Formula One car, in its pace. The wide 2009-spec front wing of BMW Saubers F1.08B certainly caused a few raised eyebrows when it made its debut recently. More puzzling to Robert Kubica, though, is whether the addition of KERS could be a disadvantage for him, as one of the tallest and heaviest drivers on the grid
Q: Robert, last week you tested the car with and without KERS. What was the difference?
Robert Kubica: Well, I think it is a bit too early to say exactly what the difference is because KERS is at quite an early stage, although we have already put in a lot of work. It is still almost impossible to explain the difference in how the car feels with or without KERS. From my personal point of view - as I am a tall and heavy driver - it is not really positive, as the weight of KERS is influencing quite a lot, especially when it comes to weight distribution, so it is limiting me quite a lot. It is nice when you press it as you feel an additional boost. Yes, it works, but we have to see in the later stages when we are closer to the first race which configuration is the quicker one - I think this is the most important issue.
Q: There have been some calls to stop, or at least postpone KERS until the safety of the technology has been proven. What is your view on that?
RK: As everybody knows, we did have an accident which involved one mechanic, but to be honest I know very little about it. Regarding the safety aspect, I havent gone into the details about it, but of course it feels strange to see all these mechanics with the (protective) gloves. Everything that goes with KERS creates a lot of attention and my point of view is that safety is paramount and everything has to be done to minimise the danger of any possible accidents.
Q: Some teams may not introduce KERS next season. What would losing KERS mean for the development of the F1.09?
RK: I dont know. In the last couple of weeks we have seen some quite surprising things in terms of regulations and limitations. The Honda withdrawal and the limitations regarding tests have been directly influenced by the global economic situation - that will cause a very new reality for everybody. Our car for sure will also run without KERS. And it is my opinion that the car built without KERS can go quicker compared to the car that was built with KERS but is not using it. KERS needs space, and if you then dont use it, it means that you are wasting space. We are analyzing what is better and in which direction the development should go. My demand is that we are use the most powerful and best performing car at the first race. I would prefer the car without KERS in that I have a bigger disadvantage with KERS. And this is a fact that all taller and heavier drivers agree on, as there is additional weight on the car, but the minimum weight of the car plus driver has stayed the same as last year, so this seems like a disadvantage.
Q: What is new on the car at this weeks Jerez test? Any new parts or is it just a case of collecting data?
RK: Well, tests are quite difficult because of the tyre situation as there is a big drop-off. This creates a situation where you have limited possibilities for consistent runs. Every time you put on new tyres your lap times are going down about two seconds or even more, and only after a few laps the times are going up again, and that makes testing very difficult. I am again running KERS to get more data and finalizing settings and tunings and then we will all go home and start again in January.
Q: Last week a dramatic cost saving programme was agreed. As a driver whats your perspective on that? Aside from the fact that those huge driver salaries are a thing of the past
RK: Everything has happened very quickly lately so we have to get used to the new situation. We saw a dramatic reduction of tests - in fact no testing between the races - so this is a quite difficult situation for all the people working on the test teams and of course it will also have an influence for the drivers. We have to wait and see how it develops. And regarding the drivers salaries, maybe we will not see those huge salaries again.
Q: Does the new in-season testing ban mean that if you get it wrong over the winter, there will be little chance to change things?
RK: Yes, that might be the case, so it is very important for us to start in the right way. With all these new regulations that have to be implemented next season it was paramount to start early. My guess is that the work of engineers and designers will become more important in the workshop. Until now, we always had the opportunity to test it before using it and now the importance of simulation work and the wind tunnel will increase, to make sure that what you put on the car is giving you the results you want. Of course, the driver input can be important and have some influence, but in the end I dont design the car - we have experts for that in the factory. My guess is that we will see bigger gaps between the teams and the team that is in the front at the beginning will stay at the front for longer. For the teams who didnt get it right, who didnt start on the right foot, it will take longer to catch up - and that will have a big influence on how the championship develops.
Q: The times that you and Nick Heidfeld did last week appeared surprisingly slow. Can that be attributed to the fact that you were running more 2009 components than the other teams?
RK: That is something very difficult to answer as you never know what the other teams are really running. I tried Monza downforce with slicks around five or six months ago in Barcelona, and then I have tried this configuration track with slicks - also in Barcelona - and it was a quite different story. Even when your downforce looks the same, the characteristics of the car are quite different - at least in our case. We dont know exactly where we are and we are running to get more information about the car, about KERS, about the tyres. We will get a better performance picture when all the teams are running 2009-spec cars. For now, lap times are not really important and I know that we are not as bad as it was looking last week. We will see.
Q: Should that be the case do you see the in-season testing ban giving BMW Sauber an advantage?
RK: It could, but it is not a sure thing. It is definitely no disadvantage to have already run a lot of 09-spec components. The wings for example - even though they are not one hundred percent those which will be on the 2009 car, they are close to it.
Q: Many have commented that the interim BMW Sauber is not what you would call a real beauty
RK: They saw our wings in Barcelona. From a drivers point of view it does not matter because you dont see them. Sure if you run behind someone it looks a bit strange. At the moment there are 08 and 09 cars running, with teams like us and McLaren running the new front wing, but if everybody starts to run the same front wing people will get used to it. It looks a bit strange to run such a wide front wing and a really narrow rear wing. It gives the impression that the car is much wider in the front than in the rear.