Q&A with Renaults Robert Kubica & Vitaly Petrov 21 Jun 2010
After Robert Kubicas fastest lap at the last round in Canada, Renault will be hoping to get back on the podium in Valencia this weekend. Unlike some of his F1 colleagues, Kubica loves the Spanish street circuit, while team mate Vitaly Petrov not only knows it well from his GP2 days, he also lives in the city. No wonder, then, that both men are looking forward to the European Grand Prix
Q: Looking to Valencia, do you find the circuit a rewarding one to race on?
Robert Kubica: I know a lot of other drivers dont think the same way, but I enjoy driving there. Its quite an interesting circuit because its half-street circuit, half-modern circuit. The characteristics are quite similar to Canada, because most of the corners are slow speed, so you concentrate on braking stability and good traction - which should suit our car because we are strong in these areas. We run a higher level of downforce than in Canada, but you still need good aerodynamic efficiency because the speeds are high at four points of the lap.
Q: It was expected that the R30 would perform well in Canada, but you suffered from a lack of grip all weekend. Will that be a problem in Valencia?
RK: The main difference will be with the asphalt: in Montreal, the track surface was new and very slippery, whereas I think the grip levels will be better in Valencia - but that will be the same for everybody. Its still a street circuit, so grip levels will be low on Friday morning, but they should improve quickly throughout the weekend, especially because we will have more categories racing and putting rubber down than we did in Canada.
Q: What is the most challenging part of the circuit in Valencia?
RK: I enjoy the first sector, because it has two chicanes where you have to jump over the kerbs, and the walls are very close. The other fun section for the drivers is the final part of the lap: they are taken flat out, or with one small lift, but you really get into the flow from one corner to another and then, for the last corner, you have to brake while there is still a lot of lateral load on the car. Its very tricky to find your braking point for that corner, which makes it even more challenging.
Q: Most people spend their weekends off at home, but you were in action again last weekend, rallying in southern Italy. Tell us more about this hobby
RK: Im somebody who likes extra competition in what I do. It wasnt actually my plan to go rallying during the season, but I had some problems when I competed last winter, so I had to do it more and its been going really well. What I love about is that you always have a question mark in your mind: when you approach each corner, you never know whats going to happen. In Formula One, I can predict 80 or 90 percent of what will happen on each lap but in rallying you can predict nothing. You go into the corner thinking What the hell will happen now? Thats what I enjoy most.
Q: The team is targeting Mercedes in the constructors championship. Do you think you can take the fight to them this weekend?
RK: It would be good to beat everybody, not just Mercedes! The gap to the front of the field is not so big, but we still have to gain a lot of ground, and we can only do that if we keep pushing and keep working. We will have a new package on the car this weekend, and we hope that will bring us another step forward. But every team will be bringing updates, so it will depend how much they bring and how much they improve. In Valencia, anything could happen, and we need to wait and see if the order is shuffled and how we will perform compared to Mercedes.
Q: Vitaly, you had a tough weekend in Canada. What did you learn?
Vitaly Petrov: First of all, I know I made mistakes in the race - at the start, I took a risk by moving onto the grass, it didnt work and I was given the drive-through penalty. But it was still important to finish the race because it always gives you much more information, particularly about how to look after the tyres in different conditions. I will take that experience with me, and I will know better how to handle certain situations in the future. But the bad result is in the past for me now; its time to focus on whats ahead.
Q: Valencia is also a circuit you know from GP2, and you won last years feature race there. Does it hold good memories for you?
VP: Yes, of course, because I won the race there last year - and also because I know all of the tricks in terms of the braking points, the line, where you can use the kerbs and even how the tyres will perform and degrade during the race. Of course, it will be different again in an F1 car, so it will still be a big challenge to put together a good performance all the way through the weekend, but I will be starting from a better baseline than in Canada.
Q: You also live in Valencia. Does that make it a home race for you?
VP: Ive been living in the city for three years because its where my GP2 team was based, so I know everything here. Its not like having a home race in your own country, in front of your people, but its a good feeling because you know the place already, you feel comfortable there and feel good. But because we dont have the French Grand Prix this year for Renault, I think the next race in Silverstone will be more like a home race, because its so close to the factory in Enstone.
Q: What are your targets for the next race?
VP: I prefer to keep my feet on the ground and concentrate on my job rather than setting targets, but I think its going to be quite an interesting race. We will have a new package for this race, so it will be interesting to see how it improves the car and how I need to adapt my driving style to it. We saw that Force India were quick in Canada, so we need to make sure that we can beat them, and try to fight with Mercedes; this is the most important thing for the team.