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Exclusive interview - BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica 06 Feb 2008

Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1. BMW Sauber F1.08 First test, Valencia, Spain, 15 January 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 BMW Sauber F1.08 First test, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, 16 January 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber. BMW Sauber F1.08 First test, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, 16 January 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 01 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 BMW Sauber F1.08 First test, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, 16 January 2008. World © Patching/Sutton

Since its launch in January, BMW Sauber’s new F1.08 has received a great deal of praise for its style but Formula One racing isn’t a beauty contest, and if the team want to challenge for podiums this season, then their 2008 car needs to start making more of an impression on the testing timesheets.

Race driver Robert Kubica, however, is optimistic that the German-Swiss squad are gradually solving the F1.08’s teething problems and is feeling confident about the season ahead…

Q: You had the honour of taking the F1.08 out for its maiden run. How did it feel?
Robert Kubica:
Normally I don’t get an adrenaline rush when I drive out of the pit for a test drive. But shaking down the very first BMW Sauber F1.08 gave me just that. It was the first time that I’ve carried out the roll-out of a Formula One car. I must admit it was a very special experience.

Q: At first sight, the F1.08 was widely tipped to be a candidate for podium finishes. But during testing you have had a difficult start to your programme. What exactly happened?
RK:
To be honest, during the first test we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be. But since then we have sorted out some of the problems and made very promising progress. We introduced some new mechanical parts and also worked on the aerodynamics, which clearly improved the car. In Poland we say that ‘it’s not important how you start, it’s important how you finish’, so I really am convinced we are doing a good job.

Q: BMW Sauber’s technical director Willy Rampf said that the team is pulling out all the stops to solve those teething problems. But aren’t you getting a little nervous after seeing how quickly the other teams are progressing? There are only 35 days to go before the Melbourne race…
RK:
Not really. I can tell you, everybody in the team is totally determined to make the F1.08 as quick as possible. We have a well planned schedule of steps we are going to carry out before the first race. We are 100 percent focused on our own work and at this stage of the preseason tests, we are not looking at the other teams too much. It’s quite normal that everybody only shows their full potential at the start of the season in Australia.

Q: Aside from the teething problems, the car’s reliability seems to be excellent. Has the F1.08’s design banked too much on reliability instead of pace?
RK:
Reliability will be one of the key factors for success this season. Remember, that the complete drive train of a car has to be used for four race weekends in a row. If you want to get anywhere near to winning the constructors’ championship you will need a very reliable car.

Q: There has been much discussion about the merits and dangers of the traction control ban. As you were the last driver to be involved in a major accident during a race, which side of the debate do you support?
RK:
First of all, my accident had nothing to do with traction control. But I agree that we will see more cars going off the track this season, especially in the wet. But that’s racing, it’s the same for every driver out there. I’m pretty sure, the discussions about the ban have already faded away a little bit. I think driving a Formula One car without traction control for the first time was difficult for everyone. But since then we have adapted our driving style and every driver has got used to it by now. That’s part of our job.

Q: Without traction control, driving style will be a key factor - especially when it comes to tyres. Are you a tyre-saving driver?
RK:
I think especially during the races in hot temperature conditions a lot depends on the driver. Also you have to use a clean driving line. In the past when you went off the track with one side of the car you could rely on traction control and you lost very little time. Without traction control, you will have to get off the throttle and lose a lot of time. But overall it’s not only a question of driving style. Your car has to save tyres as well. You can be as gentle as you like to the tyres, but if your car slides a lot and has no traction you will be nowhere, even if you are the best driver.

Q: Bridgestone has modified its tyres for 2008. Will that have any influence on the development of the car?
RK:
For sure, it always affects the car when a tyre is changed. But you have to see it together with the ban of traction control and electronic engine braking. In 2008 a fast car has to be stable during braking and have lots of mechanical traction for acceleration out of corners. I think the differences between good and bad cars will be bigger than in the past with the electronic systems.

Q: Knowing the car, the ability of the team to push its development forward and your own driving skills - how do you believe you will perform this season?
RK:
It’s still too early to compare my performance and the performance of the team to everybody else. Of course my goal is to improve on last year.

Q: What will the team be working on during the next test at Jerez?
RK:
Everybody in the team is working flat out at the moment to make the car quicker. We still have a lot to do and I’m sure the next tests will be very interesting.