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Robert Kubica Q&A: Brawn could be BMW's biggest challenger 13 Mar 2009

Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 10 March 2009. Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 11 March 2009. Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Barcelona, Spain, 12 March 2009. Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09 Formula One Testing, 1-5 March 2009, Jerez, Spain. Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.09. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 11 March 2009.

If BMW Sauber’s 2009 season goes to plan, Robert Kubica will be challenging for the title at the end of it. A maiden victory last year gave the Pole a brief taste of being a championship contender and now he’s eager for another bite of the cherry. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, he talks testing, weight savings, and KERS - and reveals why he believes Ross Brawn’s new team could be BMW’s biggest rivals…

Q: Robert, how do you feel about the car? You’ve done enough mileage now to give some kind of verdict…
Robert Kubica:
Ah, what a question! But, I agree, it’s the most important thing at this very moment. Well, overall I am pretty happy with the balance and how it feels to drive. Of course, the grip is never too much. Whatever we’ve tried to do, our focus was also clearly to improve the grip. I am quite satisfied with how the car responds to the set-up changes, so overall I can say that the feeling is good.

Q: According to BMW Sauber’s schedule, the ’09 season is to be the year you fight for the championship. Is the team ready?
RK:
We will see. Of course the ambitions are high and our target is the highest that we could set for ourselves. To run for the championship means that you’re running against all the other teams and the competition is very high, as we have seen from the very close times at the last test. To go where we want to go, you have to be on top of everything. If you want to win you have to be the quickest. Normally you had to be at least better in some areas of the car - now it seems that you have to be better everywhere.

Q: The last test before Melbourne, are you satisfied with the team’s preparations? The winter weather hasn’t allowed for as much running as you’d have liked with an all-new car…
RK:
I would probably be more comfortable if we hadn’t had those two test days in Bahrain, where a sandstorm inhibited running. That left some questions marks which I would like to know the answers to. To drive in Jerez in the wet was quite good, as last year we had, I guess, four races in the wet and we haven’t tested that before. So it was good to test different aerodynamics with the ’09 configuration car. So overall we are pretty satisfied with the programme that we did.

Q: What was your main focus for this last test?
RK:
To get answers to the last remaining issues. One of them for sure is the KERS system. I am a pretty heavy driver so it is not so easy to really know which direction to go. And there are many more set-up changes compared to last year. So they will be very busy in the workshop over the next two weeks to evaluate as many things as possible and choose the best package for the first races, because in reality we are talking about four races - Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain.

Q: Reliability is more important than ever with an engine that effectively has to last three races. How satisfied are you with this aspect? Have you encountered any problems during testing?
RK:
With reliability it’s a funny thing. If it is good you don’t think about it. You only start to think about it when it is bad. And so far, there hasn’t been any real necessity to start thinking about it. Of course we had some problems during the winter but there wasn’t one real issue that caused me to worry. Last year we had a great level of reliability and that shows that we are able to build a reliable car. So basically we just have to keep that level.

Q: You have not been too happy about KERS. Have you made peace with this new technology?
RK:
I’ve never been against it. That was never my point. My point was that all the heavy drivers will never be really happy about it. To add a system that weighs around 30 or 40 kilos to a Formula One car and not putting the minimum weight up creates a clear disadvantage for taller and heavier drivers. In Formula One you always have some sort of disadvantage, but never one that is so big. Being 1m 84cm tall and weighting 72 kilos isn’t an advantage - in fact it’s the opposite.

Q: Would it help guys like you to raise the overall weight of the car?
RK:
For sure it will never be the same for light and heavier drivers, but raising the overall weight would be a bit less of a disadvantage. I think that should be the way to go.

Q: You’ve slimmed down quite a bit…
RK:
Well, there was a moment last year when I was really light - four kilos lighter than now. But that was too much of a weight loss, as I felt it had an unfavourable effect on my physical constitution. If I try to lose weight that is okay, but if I hear that Nick (Heidfeld) is also trying to lose weight, then there is something going in the wrong direction, because F1 drivers have to be fit, as they have to last through a race distance. It is very difficult to keep up your fitness level and lose weight because in the end muscle weighs quite a lot - and we don’t want to see drivers fainting in their cars.

Q: Having now seen all your rivals on the track, who do you think will be your biggest challenger?
RK:
On one hand I feel surprised, and on the other I feel happy to see it is Brawn Grand Prix. They are performing really well. There is speculation that they are running very light, but I don’t think that it is a fuel issue. They simply look very competitive. But testing can always mislead you, give you wrong information. In two weeks all speculation will stop, all the ‘blah blah blah’ will stop. Qualifying will show who is on top and who is not.

Q: You have always made it clear that your goal is to be world champion. How close do you think you can come to this ambition?
RK:
I hope really close. I felt that last year we probably didn’t have the opportunity, but we were leading the championship at one point, and I said then that you never know when you’ll get another chance. Now I hope that we’ll get another chance!